El Sal­vador’s Romero, Pope Paul VI made saints

The Palm Beach Post - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Ni­cole Win­field and Mar­cos Ale­man

VATICAN CITY — Pope Fran­cis on Sun­day praised two tow­er­ing fig­ures of the 20th-cen­tury Catholic Church as prophets who shunned wealth and looked out for the poor as he made saints of Pope Paul VI and mar­tyred Sal­vado­ran Arch­bishop Os­car Romero.

Fran­cis can­on­ized two men at a Mass in St. Peter’s Square be­fore some 70,000 faith­ful, a hand­ful of pres­i­dents and 5,000 Sal­vado­ran pil­grims who trav­eled to Rome to honor a man con­sid­ered a hero to many Latin Amer­i­cans.

Tens of thou­sands more Sal­vado­rans stayed up all night at home to watch the Mass on gi­ant TV screens out­side the San Sal­vador cathedral where Romero’s re­mains are en­tombed.

In a sign of the strong in­flu­ence that Paul and Romero had on the first Latin Amer­i­can pope, Fran­cis wore the blood-stained rope belt that Romero wore when he was gunned down by right-wing death squads in 1980, and also used Paul’s staff, chal­ice and pal­lium vest­ment.

Paul, who was pope from 1963-1978, presided over the mod­ern­iz­ing yet po­lar­iz­ing church re­forms of the 1960s. He was the pope of Fran­cis’ for­ma­tive years as a young priest in Ar­gentina and was in­stru­men­tal in giv­ing rise to the Latin Amer­i­can church’s “pref­er­en­tial op­tion for the poor” that Fran­cis has made his own.

Fran­cis also has a close per­sonal con­nec­tion to Romero, and like him lived through the ter­ror of rightwing mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ships when Fran­cis was in Ar­gentina. Fran­cis was re­spon­si­ble for declar­ing Romero a mar­tyr for his fear­less de­nun­ci­a­tions of the mil­i­tary op­pres­sion at the start of El Sal­vador’s 1980-1992 civil war.

In his homily, Fran­cis called Paul a “prophet of a church turned out­wards” to care for the far­away poor. He said Romero gave up his se­cu­rity and life to “be close to the poor and his peo­ple.”

And he warned that those who don’t fol­low their ex­am­ple to leave be­hind ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing their wealth, risk never truly find­ing God.

“Wealth is dan­ger­ous and — says Je­sus — even makes one’s sal­va­tion dif­fi­cult,” Fran­cis said.

“The love of money is the root of all evils,” he said. “Where money is at the cen­ter, there is no room for God or for man.”

For many Sal­vado­rans, it was the cul­mi­na­tion of a fraught, politi­cized cam­paign to have the church for­mally honor a man who spoke out for the rights of land­less peas­ants and the poor at a time when the U.S.backed right-wing gov­ern­ment was seek­ing to quash a left­ist re­bel­lion.

“We couldn’t stay home on this his­toric day,” said Jose Martinez, who with his wife and two young chil­dren joined the crowds out­side the San Sal­vador cathedral. “I want my chil­dren to know Mon­signor, our saint, that he was a great man who raised his voice to de­fend his pue­blo, and for that they killed him.”

AN­DREW MEDI­CHINI / AP

Pope Fran­cis on Sun­day praised two fig­ures of the 20th-cen­tury Catholic Church as prophets who shunned wealth and looked out for the poor as he made saints of Pope Paul VI (right) and mar­tyred Sal­vado­ran Arch­bishop Os­car Romero.

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