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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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Pope sending new Salvadoran cardinal to Korea to work for peace

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Celebrating a Mass in his native El Salvador, newly created Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez said his first major assignment will be to travel to South Korea for a meeting on how to achieve peace with North Korea.

New Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez of San Salvador, El Salvador, celebrates a Mass at the Parish of the Blessed Sacrament as he takes possession of his titular church in Rome July 2. Celebrating a July 8 Mass in El Salvador, Cardinal Rosa Chavez said his first major assignment will be to travel to South Korea for a meeting on how to achieve peace with North Korea. (CNS photo/Rodrigo Sura, EPA)

New Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez of San Salvador, El Salvador, celebrates a Mass at the Parish of the Blessed Sacrament as he takes possession of his titular church in Rome July 2. Celebrating a July 8 Mass in El Salvador, Cardinal Rosa Chavez said his first major assignment will be to travel to South Korea for a meeting on how to achieve peace with North Korea. (CNS photo/Rodrigo Sura, EPA)

During a homily in San Salvador’s Metropolitan Cathedral July 8, Cardinal Rosa Chavez said that although he will “continue to be the least of my brother bishops” as auxiliary bishop, he is also entrusted to other matters by Pope Francis.

“I already received my first invitation to go to Seoul, South Korea, to attend a meeting to see how we can achieve peace between North and South Korea,” the cardinal said; his remarks were followed by applause and cheers by the faithful.

Tensions continue to escalate in the Korean peninsula after North Korea conducted its first successful intercontinental ballistic missile test July 4. With an estimated range of 5,000 miles, the missile is capable of striking the U.S. mainland with a nuclear-tipped warhead.

In response, the U.S. and South Korean military held joint drills in a show of force against North Korea. However, under the leadership of Kim Jong-un, North Korea has shown no signs of de-escalating its nuclear ambitions.

Cardinal Rosa Chavez, who worked closely with Blessed Oscar Romero before he was assassinated in 1980, was praised for his role in negotiations that brought peace to El Salvador after 12 years of civil war.

Following the announcement that he was to be made a cardinal, El Salvador’s Foreign Ministry said the San Salvador auxiliary was “fundamental in the process of dialogue and negotiation that allowed us to sign the peace accords in 1992 that put an end to the conflict in our country.”

Manuel Roberto Lopez, El Salvador’s ambassador to the Holy See, said July 10 that Cardinal Rosa Chavez’s new role “places him in a situation where he has great experience.”

“Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez was someone who collaborated extensively in the peace treaty in El Salvador because he was the only Salvadoran who participated in every single meeting between 1984-1989l,” the ambassador said.

His participation in negotiations between the Salvadoran government and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, he said, “culminated in the signing” of the Chapultepec Peace Accords in 1992.

Acknowledging that the conflict in the Korean peninsula is “a bit more complicated” and “won’t be resolved in one day,” Lopez told CNS that Cardinal Rosa Chavez’s experience can help bring both sides to the negotiating table.

“I’ve known him for many years and he is such an authentic person in his simplicity, in his way of being close to the people; he was an auxiliary bishop but always close to the people, with the smell of the sheep as Pope Francis says,” Lopez said.

“Even though he said he was going to return to his normal activities, I knew it wasn’t going to be that way. The pope saw in him something greater to have given him more duties in the course of his pontificate. That is my opinion,” he said.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

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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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Archbishop Romero to be beatified May 23 in El Salvador

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Catholic News Service

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero will be beatified in San Salvador May 23, said Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the postulator or chief promoter of the archbishop’s sainthood cause.

The ceremony, which moves the murdered archbishop a step closer to sainthood, will be in Plaza Divino Salvador del Mundo. The archbishop said Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, would celebrate the Mass.

A nun kisses the forehead of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador at the Hospital of Divine Providence in San Salvador. The archbishop was taken to the hospital with bullet wounds in the chest after being shot by four unidentified gunmen as he celebrated Mass in a chapel March 24, 1980. (Scan of CNS file photo)

A nun kisses the forehead of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador at the Hospital of Divine Providence in San Salvador. The archbishop was taken to the hospital with bullet wounds in the chest after being shot by four unidentified gunmen as he celebrated Mass in a chapel March 24, 1980. (Scan of CNS file photo)

“Romero, from heaven, wants every Salvadoran to walk the path of peace and justice,” Archbishop Paglia said March 11 at a news conference in San Salvador.

The archbishop called the beatification a gift for the world, but particularly for the people of El Salvador.

While Archbishop Romero’s sainthood cause began in 1993, it continued for years as church officials combed through thousands of documents related to his life. The effort began moving forward under Pope Benedict XVI. In May 2007, he said: “Archbishop Romero certainly was a great witness to the faith, a man of great Christian virtue.”

The process advanced rapidly with the election of Pope Francis in 2013, the first Latin American pope in history. From the first moments of his papacy, he showed interest in declaring Archbishop Romero a saint.

Pope Francis signed the decree recognizing Archbishop Romero as a martyr, which meant there was no need to prove a miracle for his beatification. However, a miracle is ordinarily needed for canonization as saint.

Archbishop Romero, an outspoken advocate for the poor, was shot and killed March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass in a hospital in San Salvador during his country’s civil war. Archbishop Paglia said in early February that the two decades it took to obtain the decree were the result of “misunderstandings and preconceptions.”

During Archbishop Romero’s time as archbishop of San Salvador, from 1977 to 1980, “kilos of letters against him arrived in Rome. The accusations were simple: He’s political; he’s a follower of liberation theology.”

All of the complaints, Archbishop Paglia said, slowed the sainthood process.

However, promoters of the cause, he said, collected “a mountain of testimony just as big” to counter the accusations and to prove that Archbishop Romero heroically lived the Christian faith and was killed out of hatred for his words and actions as a Catholic pastor.

“He was killed at the altar,” Archbishop Paglia said, instead of when he was an easier target at home or on the street. “Through him, they wanted to strike the church that flowed from the Second Vatican Council.”

The archbishop announced the date of the beatification on the eve of the anniversary of the assassination of a close personal friend of Archbishop Romero: Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande, the first priest executed by death squads, March 12, 1977.

Father Grande was a fiery champion of the poor and oppressed and used the pulpit to denounce actions of the government, death squads in his country, violence from the outbreak of civil war and military occupation of churches. His death had a profound impact on Archbishop Romero, who later said, “When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought, ‘If they have killed him for doing what he did, then I, too, have to walk the same path.’”

 

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Pope Francis recognizes martyrdom of Archbishop Romero

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Catholic News Service VATICAN CITY — After decades of debate within the church, Pope Francis formally recognized that Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero was killed “in hatred of the faith” and not for purely political reasons. Pope Francis signed the decree Feb. 3, recognizing as martyrdom the March 24, 1980, assassination of Archbishop Romero in a San Salvador hospital chapel as he celebrated Mass. The decree clears the way for the beatification of Archbishop Romero. The postulator or chief promoter of his sainthood cause, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, was scheduled to brief the press Feb. 4 about the cause.

People look at a painting of slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero at the cathedral in San Salvador Feb. 3. (CNS photo/Jose Cabezasi, Reuters)

People look at a painting of slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero at the cathedral in San Salvador Feb. 3. (CNS photo/Jose Cabezasi, Reuters)

Archbishop Romero’s sainthood cause was opened at the Vatican in 1993, but was delayed for years as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith studied his writings, amid wider debate over whether he had been killed for his faith or for taking political positions against Salvadoran government and against the death squads that were operating in his country.

As head of the San Salvadoran Archdiocese from 1977 until his death, his preaching grew increasingly strident in defense of the country’s poor and oppressed.

Pope Benedict XVI told reporters in 2007 that the archbishop was “certainly a great witness of the faith” who “merits beatification, I do not doubt.” But he said some groups had complicated the sainthood cause by trying to co-opt the archbishop as a political figure.

Seven years later, Pope Francis, the first Latin American pope, told reporters that “for me, Romero is a man of God.” However, he said at the time, “the process must go ahead, and God must give his sign. If he wants to do so, he will.”

During his general audience Jan. 7, Pope Francis quoted words that Archbishop Romero had spoken at the funeral Mass of a priest assassinated by Salvadoran death squads: “We must all be willing to die for our faith even if the Lord does not grant us this honor.”

Although not seen as exercising any pressure to move the cause forward, St. John Paul II made it a point of praying at Archbishop Romero’s tomb in the San Salvador cathedral during visits to the city in 1983 and again in 1996. During his first visit, he told people gathered in the cathedral, “Within the walls of this cathedral rest the mortal remains of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, a zealous pastor whose love of God and service to his brothers and sisters led to the very sacrifice of his life in a violent way as he celebrated the sacrifice of forgiveness and reconciliation.”

When Pope John Paul returned 13 years later, he told the people that he wanted to pray again at the tomb of Archbishop Romero, “brutally assassinated while he offered the sacrifice of the Mass.” The pope said he was pleased that the archbishop’s memory “continues to live among you.”

An official decree of martyrdom removes the beatification requirement of a miracle attributed to the candidate’s intercession.

Generally, a miracle after beatification would still be needed for canonization.

The same day that Pope Francis formally recognized Archbishop Romero’s martyrdom, he also signed a decree recognizing the martyrdom of two Polish Conventual Franciscans and an Italian missionary priest who were murdered by Shining Path guerrillas in Peru in 1991. Franciscan Fathers Michal Tomaszek and Zbigniew Strzalkowski and Father Alessandro Dordi, a diocesan priest from Bergamo, were killed in separate incidents in August 1991. Dates for the beatification of Archbishop Romero and the Peru martyrs were not announced immediately.

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Theologians declare that Archbishop Romero is a martyr

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A panel of theologians advising the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes voted unanimously to recognize the late Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as a martyr, according to the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference.

The panel declared Jan. 8 that the archbishop had been killed “in hatred for the faith,” Avvenire reported Jan. 9.

Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero is pictured in a 1979 photo in San Salvador. A panel of theologians advising the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes voted unanimously Jan. 8 to recognize the late Salvadoran archbishop as a martyr, according to the newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero is pictured in a 1979 photo in San Salvador. A panel of theologians advising the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes voted unanimously Jan. 8 to recognize the late Salvadoran archbishop as a martyr, according to the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

The decision is a key step in the archbishop’s cause, following an extended debate over whether he was killed for political reasons or for his faith.

The next step in the process lies with the cardinals and bishops who sit on the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, who will vote on whether to advise the pope to issue a decree of beatification. A miracle is not needed for beatification of a martyr, though a miracle is ordinarily needed for his or her canonization as saint.

Archbishop Romero, an outspoken advocate for the poor, was shot and killed March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass in a hospital in San Salvador during his country’s civil war. His sainthood cause was opened at the Vatican in 1993.

Pope Benedict XVI told reporters in 2007 that the archbishop was “certainly a great witness of the faith” who “merits beatification, I do not doubt.” But he said some groups had complicated the sainthood cause by trying to co-opt the archbishop as a political figure.

In March 2013, Pope Francis reportedly told El Salvador’s ambassador to the Holy See: “I hope that under this pontificate we can beatify (Archbishop Romero).”

Pope Francis told reporters in August 2014 that “For me, Romero is a man of God.”

“But the process must go ahead, and God must give his sign. If he wants to do so, he will,” Pope Francis said.

During his general audience Jan. 7, Pope Francis quoted words that Archbishop Romero had spoken at the funeral Mass of a priest assassinated by Salvadoran death squads: “We must all be willing to die for our faith even if the Lord does not grant us this honor.”

 

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Slain archbishop’s message resonates with young Catholics

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Catholic News Service

Each spring, the doors of the small church near Candler, close to Asheville in North Carolina, are flung open to let in the burgeoning number of congregants.

Seats fill fast on or around March 24, said Edith Segovia, a parishioner of St. Joan of Arc Church. Increasingly, she sees younger churchgoers arriving to celebrate the life of a man who died before many of them were born.

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