Romero possible sainthood creates mixed emotions
By Chaz Muth
Catholic News Service
Scholars who have studied the life of murdered Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero say a reading of the tea leaves suggests advancement of his sainthood cause is imminent.
The news is being met with jubilation by Romero researchers and with mixed emotions by Salvadorans.
Supporters of the cause for Romero’s canonization have been frustrated for years by what they view as a stalled effort.
However, the cause appears to have momentum, and a soon-to-come beatification or sainthood announcement “would be a great day for us,” said Damian Zynda, an Archbishop Romero researcher who is a faculty member with the Christian Spirituality Program at Creighton University.
Zynda was among several scholars Catholic News Service interviewed during the annual International Conference on Archbishop Oscar Romero at the University of Notre Dame in September.
On Jan. 8 the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference announced that a panel of theologians advising the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes unanimously voted to recognize the archbishop as a martyr, and declared that the archbishop had been killed “in hatred for the faith.”
Archbishop Romero, an outspoken advocate for the poor and critic of a Salvadoran government he said legitimized terror and assassinations, was shot and killed March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass in a San Salvador hospital chapel.
The next step in the process lies with the cardinals and bishops in 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 canonization.
Some scholars say it is possible Pope Francis will not adhere to convention and fast-track the canonization process without a miracle.
“I’m not naive, because I’ve walked through a lot of trenches, but I’m hopeful,” said Holy Cross Father Robert S. Pelton, director of Latin American/North American Church Concerns for the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Father Pelton also organizes an annual international conference on Archbishop Romero at the university.
“It’s so long overdue,” said Julian Filochowski, chairman of the Archbishop Romero Trust in London, which was launched in 2007 to raise awareness about the archbishop’s life and work. “I think it will give great encouragement to the church and to those who are bread-breaking-justice-seeking Christians and Catholics around the world.”
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 political reasons. And there has been concern that he has been used as a political symbol rather than a religious symbol in El Salvador.
Pope Francis has been an outspoken admirer of Archbishop Romero. He quoted him during a recent general audience at the Vatican, and when he was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, he reportedly said he already considered Archbishop Romero to be a saint.