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Salvadoran pilgrimage to mark centennial of Blessed Romero’s birth

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By Catholic News Service

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Salvadorans plan to walk more than 90 miles in three days to mark the centennial of Blessed Oscar Romero’s birth.

People participate in a late-March procession to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the killing of Blessed Oscar Romero in San Salvador, El Salvador. A pilgrimage to celebrate the slain archbishop's 100th birthday will be held Aug. 11-13, with pilgrims walking from San Salvador to Ciudad Barrios, where he was born. (CNS photo/Rodigro Sura, EPA)

People participate in a late-March procession to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the killing of Blessed Oscar Romero in San Salvador, El Salvador. A pilgrimage to celebrate the slain archbishop’s 100th birthday will be held Aug. 11-13, with pilgrims walking from San Salvador to Ciudad Barrios, where he was born. (CNS photo/Rodigro Sura, EPA)

Participants will leave the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Salvador Aug. 11 and are scheduled to arrive in Ciudad Barrios, the eastern city where Blessed Romero was born, Aug. 13.

The pilgrimage, “Caminando hacia la cuna del Profeta” (“Walking toward the prophet’s birthplace”), will go through four dioceses — San Salvador, San Vicente, Santiago de Maria and San Miguel.

Blessed Romero was born Aug. 15, 1917, and that centennial date will be marked by a Mass at San Salvador’s cathedral. Chilean Cardinal Ricardo Ezzatti of Santiago, Pope Francis’ special envoy to the celebration, will be the main celebrant.

Masses also are scheduled in other parts of the country. On Aug. 12, in the western Santa Ana diocese, Archbishop Leon Kalenga Badikebele, apostolic nuncio to El Salvador, will deliver the homily at a commemorative Mass, while Salvadoran Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez, a close friend of Blessed Romero, is scheduled to give a presentation on the archbishop’s life and work.

When it announced the activities July 31, the Salvadoran bishops’ conference stated that, as far back as three years ago, it “invited all the worshippers, Salvadorans and of the world, to prepare for this centennial to remember Blessed Romero as a man, a pastor and a martyr.”

The murdered priest was beatified May 23, 2015, in San Salvador. In a letter to the gathering, read before an estimated 250,000 people gathered for the event, Pope Francis described Blessed Romero as “a voice that continues to resonate.”

Ordained April 4, 1942, in Rome, the Salvadoran religious leader was appointed archbishop of San Salvador Feb. 23, 1977, and was gunned down after Mass at a hospital chapel March 24, 1980, a day after a sermon in which he called on Salvadoran soldiers to obey what he described as God’s order and stop carrying actions of repression.

The archbishop’s March 30 funeral at the cathedral, attended by more than 200,000 mourners, was interrupted by gunfire that left 30-50 people dead.

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Blessed Romero ‘another brilliant star’ belonging to church of Americas

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Catholic News Service

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Some thought this day would never arrive. Others hoped and some always knew it would.

On May 23, the Catholic Church, beatified Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez, of El Salvador, who was assassinated in 1980 while celebrating Mass, just a day after pleading and ordering soldiers to stop killing innocent civilians.

Priests carry the blood-stained shirt of Archbishop Oscar Romero during his beatification Mass at the Divine Savior of the World square in San Salvador May 23. (CNS photo/Lissette Lemus)

Priests carry the blood-stained shirt of Archbishop Oscar Romero during his beatification Mass at the Divine Savior of the World square in San Salvador May 23. (CNS photo/Lissette Lemus)

“Blessed Romero is another brilliant star that belongs to the sanctity of the church of the Americas,” said Cardinal Angelo Amato, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, during the ceremony in San Salvador. “And thanks be to God, there are many.”

While those who persecuted him have died or are in obscurity, “the memory of Romero continues to live in the poor and the marginalized,” Cardinal Amato said.

His homilies often pleaded for better conditions for the poor, for a stop to the escalating violence in the country and for brotherhood among those whose divisions ultimately led to a 12-year conflict.

He’s not a symbol of division but one of peace, Cardinal Amato said.

In a message sent Saturday on the occasion of the beatification, Pope Francis said that Archbishop Romero “built the peace with the power of love, gave testimony of the faith with his life.”

Proof of that is the shirt he died in, soaked in blood, after an assassin’s single bullet took his life. Eight deacons carried the blood-stained shirt, now a relic, to the altar in a glass case. Others decorated it with flowers and candles during the Saturday ceremony. Several priests reached out to touch the case and later made the sign of the cross.

In a time of difficulty in El Salvador, Archbishop Romero knew “how to guide, defend and protect his flock, remaining faithful to the Gospel and in communion with the whole church,” the pope said in his message. “His ministry was distinguished by a particular attention to the poor and marginalized. And at the time of his death, while celebrating the holy sacrifice, love and reconciliation, he received the grace to be fully identified with the one who gave his life for his sheep.”

The event, at the square of the Divine Savior of the World in the capital city of San Salvador, saw the attendance of four Latin American presidents and six cardinals including: Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, of Honduras; Leopoldo Brenes, of Nicaragua; Jaime Ortega, of Cuba; Jose Luis Lacunza, of Panama; Roger Mahony, of the U.S.; and Italian Cardinal Amato, as well as Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, postulator of Archbishop Romero’s cause.

Their excitement couldn’t have been greater than that of those like Father Estefan Turcios, pastor of El Salvador’s St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Soyapango and national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in El Salvador. Before El Salvador’s conflict, Father Turcios was imprisoned for defending the rights of the poor. Archbishop Romero helped free him.

“There have been people inspired by Romero for 35 years. How do you think they feel right now?” asked Father Turcios.

But just as he has devotees, Archbishop Romero has had detractors.

After his death, the Vatican received mounds of letters against Archbishop Romero, Archbishop Paglia, has said. And that affected his path toward sainthood, which includes beatification. But three decades after his assassination, Pope Benedict XVI cleared the archbishop’s sainthood cause.

In February Pope Francis signed the decree recognizing Archbishop Romero as a martyr, a person killed “in hatred of the faith” which meant there is no need to prove a miracle for beatification. In general two miracles are needed for sainthood — one for beatification and the second for canonization.

Father Turcios said by studying Blessed Romero’s life, others will discover all the Gospel truths that led him to defend life, the poor and the church, and do away with untruths surrounding his legacy.

During the country’s civil war that lasted from 1979 until 1992, some Salvadorans hid, buried and sometimes burned photos they had taken with or of Archbishop Romero, because it could mean others would call them communists or rebel sympathizers and put their lives in danger.

Though he still has some detractors, Father Turcios said, the beatification can help others understand the reality and truth that others have known all along: Archbishop Romero “was loyal to God’s will, was loyal to and loved his people and was loyal to and loved the church,” he said.

 

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Blessed Oscar Romero was ‘a good priest, a wise bishop and a virtuous man,’ cardinal says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero’s preferential love for the poor “was not ideological, but evangelical,” said Cardinal Angelo Amato, the prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.

The cardinal, who was delegated by Pope Francis to preside over Archbishop Romero’s beatification May 23 in San Salvador, told Vatican Radio the martyred archbishop “was, in fact, a good priest and a wise bishop, but most of all, he was a virtuous man.”

People carry large portraits of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero during a rally in March in San Salvador to pay tribute to the late archbishop, who was assassinated 35 years ago. Archbishop Romero, who wase beatified in San Salvador May 23, has become a symbol of Latin American church leaders' efforts to protect their flocks from the abuses of military dictatorships. (CNS photo/Roberto Escobar, EPA)

People carry large portraits of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero during a rally in March in San Salvador to pay tribute to the late archbishop, who was assassinated 35 years ago. Archbishop Romero, who wase beatified in San Salvador May 23, has become a symbol of Latin American church leaders’ efforts to protect their flocks from the abuses of military dictatorships. (CNS photo/Roberto Escobar, EPA)

“He loved Jesus and adored him in the Eucharist, he loved the church, he venerated the Blessed Virgin Mary and he loved his people,” Cardinal Amato said.

“His martyrdom was not an improvisation,” the cardinal said, “but had a long preparation,” which went all the way back to Archbishop Romero’s preparation for priestly ordination in 1942 when he consecrated his very life to God.

The Vatican Radio reporter asked about what many people refer to as Archbishop Romero’s “conversion” from being rather quiet and focused on internal church affairs to being more outspoken in defense of the poor and the victims of his country’s military dictatorship.

“A change in his life of being a meek and almost timid pastor” was the murder in 1977 of Salvadoran Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande, who had left his university position to be a “pastor of the farmworkers, the oppressed and emarginated,” Cardinal Amato said. The murder “was the event that touched the heart of Archbishop Romero, who mourned his priest like a mother would her own child.”

While his public words became much sharper and more focused on the lived reality of his people, he said, “his words were not an incitement to hatred and revenge, but were the heartfelt exhortation of a father to his divided children, calling them to love, forgiveness and agreement.”

For Cardinal Amato, Pope Francis summarized “the priestly and pastoral identity of Romero when he called him ‘bishop and martyr, pastor according to the heart of Christ, evangelizer and father of the poor, heroic witness of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of justice, brotherhood and peace.’”

Archbishop Romero, he said, “is another bright star shining in the American spiritual firmament.”

Citing saints from North, Central and South America, he said there are “many American saints and martyrs who pray to the Lord for their brothers and sisters still on the earthly pilgrimage. Blessed Oscar Romero belongs to this impetuous wind of holiness that still blows over the American continent, a land of love and fidelity to the good news of the Gospel.”

 

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