On Monday, 3 February, Pope Francis authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree which declared late Oscar Arnolfo Romero Galdamez, Archbishop of San Salvador as a martyr.
Archbishop Oscar Romero was born on 15 August 1917 in Ciudad Barrios, El Salvador.
Originally a conservative cleric, Archbishop Romero gradually became an energetic defender of El Salvador’s poor and routinely condemned from the pulpit human rights violations by the military as well as paramilitary death squads.
A turning point for the Archbishop was the murder of Jesuit priest Father Rutilio Grande in 1977, a close friend, who was killed in El Salvador before the civil war.
Archbishop Romero was assassinated by a gunman who shot him dead as the prelate finished a homily in a hospital chapel in 1980 at the beginning of that country’s civil war, which eventually claimed some 75,000 lives before it ended in 1992.
The slain Archbishop had long been considered a martyr and saint by many Salvadorans. But some members of El Salvador’s conservative curia and other conservative prelates in Latin America had seen Archbishop Romero as sympathetic to Marxist guerrillas who sought to overthrow right wing governments throughout the region during the 1970s and 1980s, analysts say.
In his most famous homily a day before his assassination, Archbishop Romero had beseeched soldiers to stop the killing. “In the name of this suffering people, whose cries rise to heaven each day more tumultuous, I beseech you, I beg you, I order you, in the name of God, stop the repression,” Archbishop Romero said.
In an airplane news conference returning from his recent trip to South Korea, Pope Francis said he believed Archbishop Romero was a “man of God,” although the archbishop’s case had been previously blocked “out of prudence.” Pope Francis said there were no longer any “impediments” to proceeding with the archbishop’s case.
As a martyr, the archbishop doesn’t have to have a miracle attributed to him to become beatified, the penultimate step on the road to sainthood. But a miracle is needed for canonization.
In recent weeks, Jorge Velado, the president of Arena, the right-wing party which dominated Salvadoran politics for the two decades following the end of the civil war, has praised Archbishop Romero as the guide of the Salvadoran Church. Arena’s candidate for mayor of the capital of San Salvador has promised to build a plaza in honor of the slain archbishop.
“Msgr. Romero is a historic leader of our country, he is a leader for us Catholics, he is our guide and a leader of the church,” Mr. Velado said in a televised interview last month.
Mr. Velado’s attitude marks a sea change, says Carlos Dada, founder of the online Salvadoran newspaper El Faro. Mr. Dada said that during its time in power, Arena largely ignored Archbishop Romero’s historical legacy.