Murdered Salvadoran Archbishop to be Canonized
On March 24, 1980, Archbishop Óscar Romero was shot through the heart by a sniper while celebrating mass in a hospital chapel in San Salvador.
Romero had received numerous death threats after calling on the military to stop killing innocent civilians in El Salvador’s dirty war. “The peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters,” Romero preached.
A statement given by the Vatican on Wednesday confirmed that Pope Francis has signed decrees to canonize Romero as a Roman Catholic saint.
Francis ruled that Romero could be declared a saint after a Vatican commission certified a miracle attributed to him. Though the nature of Romero's miracle has not yet been made public, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, who oversaw the canonization process, reportedly told an Italian radio station that the “healing of a pregnant woman that at first glance seems inexplicable” had been attributed to Romero’s doing.
In 2015, Romero was declared a martyr and beatified by Pope Francis. During an in-flight press conference, Francis claimed the murder to be “odium fidei” (in hatred of the faith).
Romero was an inspiration to many in Latin America who saw him as an advocate for the poor and oppressed. Romero was part of a movement known as liberation theology which grew in popularity during the Cold War period. The religious movement placed concerns for the poor and disenfranchised at the forefront of its platform. The movement, which promoted social justice and political action, was heavily criticized by the papacy.
According to an article by the Huffington Post, conservative Catholics refute the fact that Romero was ever connected to liberation theology. The article speculates that Romero was not canonized until now as officials in the Vatican “said that to canonize the murdered cleric would effectively endorse liberation theology too.”
No one has ever been prosecuted for Romero’s murder but it is widely believed that a right-wing death squad was behind his death.
It is clear that divisions remain regarding Romero’s legacy. Romero was a freedom fighter in his own right and a spark of hope for many during the 12 year-long civil war. Romero would often say, “The ones who have a voice must speak for those who are voiceless.”
Francis, the first Latin American pope, has also urged the church to fight for the poor and has repeatedly criticized capitalism and consumerism. While there is not an official date set, Romero is expected to be canonized at the Synod of Bishops in October 2018.