Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Oscar Anulfo Romero

Catholic World News here has updated information on the cause for beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero. The topic in question at this point is as to whether or not he was a martyr for the Faith as opposed to a political assasination. CWN points out however that it is not only the El Salvadorean people who have taken to calling Romero a martyr:
Archbishop Romero was among the most prominent critics of human-rights abuses in El Salvador during his years (1977-1980) as Archbishop of San Salvador. He was shot and killed by a right-wing "death squad" on March 23, 1980. The killing shocked the world and loosed a torrent of emotion in El Salvador, where he was particularly beloved by the poor. An estimated 250,000 people attended the archbishop's funeral-- which was itself disrupted by gunfire.

Soon after the archbishop's death, Catholics in El Salvador began to refer to him as a martyr. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have used the term in reference to the slain Salvadoran prelate.
It is common knowledge that John Paul II and Romero had some differences while Romero was alive. He was often accused of being involved with the worse aspects of Liberation Theology and had to defend his actions on behalf of the poor. A conversation is related in which he tried to inform John Paul that the experience of communism in El Salvador was different from what he suffered in Poland. They could not be treated univocally. After Romero's death, however, John Paul visited and prayed at Romero's tomb.

Whether or not Romero is judged to have been a martyr for the Faith I think does little to contest his sanctity. The new requirements for beatification that are stricter concerning the growth of a local cult that acknowledges the holiness of the person are well met. The entire country, on the Left and Right, invoke him. I remember hearing while I was in El Salvador of some particularly acute acts of heroic holiness. He regularly visited the small towns that were controlled by Guerrilla and Government forces alike. Visiting the town where I was staying at once to say mass, he was strip searched in the sight of the whole town down to his undergarments. No distinction was offered to him as a man of peace and a man of the Church. Yet witnesses with whom I spoke relate that he offered no resistance at all. Let us pray for the humility of this holy man.

Markel, SJ

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