Pope to canon­ise death squad vic­tim Romero

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD - VATICAN CITY:

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

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