Pope’s can­on­iza­tions to­day per­sonal, po­lit­i­cal

The Citizens' Voice - - NATION & WORLD - BY NI­COLE WIN­FIELD

VAT­I­CAN CITY — Pope Fran­cis to­day will can­on­ize two of the most im­por­tant and con­tested fig­ures of the 20th cen­tury Catholic Church, declar­ing Pope Paul VI and the mar­tyred Sal­vado­ran Arch­bishop Os­car Romero as mod­els of saint­li­ness for the faith­ful.

The cer­e­mony is likely to be emo­tional for Fran­cis, since he was greatly in­flu­enced by both men and pri­vately told con­fi­dantes he wanted them made saints dur­ing his pa­pacy. The two rep­re­sent the epit­ome of the out­ward-look­ing church that Fran­cis has cham­pi­oned, one that is close to the poor and fights in­jus­tice.

Paul VI and Romero also en­dured strong op­po­si­tion from within the church in life and af­ter death — a fate Fran­cis is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing now amid the church’s bur­geon­ing sex abuse and cover-up scan­dal.

These two tow­er­ing fig­ures will be can­on­ized along with five oth­ers in a cer­e­mony de­signed to show that ho­li­ness can be at­tained in all walks of life.

When Car­di­nal Jorge Mario Ber­goglio de­liv­ered the 2013 stump speech to car­di­nals that got him elected Pope Fran­cis, he made only one ci­ta­tion in the text: Pope Paul VI.

Gio­vanni Maria Vian, ed­i­tor of the Vat­i­can news­pa­per L’os­ser­va­tore Romano, said Ber­goglio ma­tured as a priest, a Je­suit and a Chris­tian while Paul VI was pope from 1963 to 1978.

“It’s un­der­stood that Paul VI is his pope,” Vian said.

Paul is per­haps best known for hav­ing presided over the fi­nal ses­sions of Vat­i­can II, the tu­mul­tuous 196265 church meet­ings that mod­ern­ized the Catholic Church and opened it up to the world, al­low­ing liturgy to be cel­e­brated in the ver­nac­u­lar rather than in Latin and call­ing for greater roles for the laity and im­proved re­la­tions with peo­ple of other faiths.

Fran­cis also longed to de­clare Romero a saint, con­vinced that he was a true mar­tyr who will­ingly gave up his life to stand with El Sal­vador’s poor and de­nounce the vi­o­lence of the mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship.

Romero, arch­bishop of San Sal­vador, was gunned down by right-wing death squads as he cel­e­brated Mass on March 24, 1980, in a hos­pi­tal chapel. The mil­i­tary had ve­he­mently op­posed his preach­ing against the army’s re­pres­sion at the start of the coun­try’s 1980-1992 civil war.

Al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter his death, Romero be­came an icon of the South Amer­i­can left, with his im­age fre­quently ap­pear­ing along­side the likes of Che Gue­vara and Sal­vadore Al­lende.

ALESSANDRA TARANTINO / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The ta­pes­tries of Ro­man Catholic Arch­bishop Os­car Romero, left, and Pope Paul VI hang from a bal­cony of the fa­cade of St. Peter’s Basil­ica at the Vat­i­can on Fri­day.

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