Pope to canonise death squad victim Romero
Pope Francis will tomorrow elevate to sainthood El Salvador archbishop Oscar Romero, who was slain by a rightwing death squad in 1980 as he said mass, and Pope Paul VI.
Pilgrims from across the globe are expected to flock to Saint Peter’s Square to pay tribute to two men hailed by Francis for their courage in turbulent times and their dedication to social justice and the poor.
The pair will be made saints along with five others, including an Italian youth who died of bone cancer aged 19 and a German nun.
The canonisations come just days before the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on October 17.
Romero stood up for peasant rights in the face of a right-wing backlash that painted him as a radical supporter of “liberation” theology in El Salvador.
Paul VI was the first pope to attempt to reform the Vatican’s powerful and unruly Curia, the first to hold weekly general audiences with the common man in Saint Peter’s Square, and seek the opinions of non-believers.
He also was the first to reject the papal trappings of luxury, setting aside the traditional jewel-encrusted tiara shortly after his election in 1963 and donating its value to the poor — a gesture echoed by Francis, who renounced the papal apartment and gold cross. Paul VI supported Romero, telling him at a meeting in June 1978 to “proceed with courage” in his defence of human rights. Just two years later, the latter would be shot in the heart during a service at the start of a bloody civil war which claimed about 75,000 lives.
Efforts to recognise Romero met with heavy opposition from conservative Catholics and the Salvadoran right, who saw veiled Marxism in his sermons eulogising the poor and radio broadcasts condemning government repression. But Francis — the first Latin American pope — beatified him as a “martyr” in 2015 to popular acclaim after his predecessor, the retired Benedict XVI, championed his cause for canonisation.
Sunday’s ceremony has been timed to coincide with a meeting of the world’s bishops, for it was Paul VI who introduced the tradition of holding such synods.
A march for Oscar Romero