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Archbishop Romero declared a saint

Archbishop Romero declared a saint

By Charlene Scott Myers

Southwest Kansas Catholic

Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, brutally murdered 38 years ago by a right-wing military squad that had defiled and slaughtered three nuns and a lay woman before his death, was declared a saint by Pope Francis on Sunday, Oct. 14. 

Romero was shot down by a right-wing death squad on March 24, 1980 while celebrating Mass at the Cathedral of San Salvador.  He had protested the murders of the three nuns and a lay woman who had worked with the poor in San Salvador, and when threatened with death himself, had defied the cowardly murderers and bravely launched a weekly Sunday radio address to his flock urging them to keep the faith and also be brave in the face of death.

The canonization of Romero was opposed by some leaders in the Roman Catholic Church who thought he was “too political.”  None of those leaders, however, had ever risked their lives or spoken out on behalf of the “disappeared” in El Salvador. 

Hundreds of college age youth had marched in defense of the poor in that country and paid for their bravery by being brutally defiled and “disappeared,” a much too clean word for the young people whose bodies were crudely dumped in a volcano in El Salvador.

The modern martyr Romero also had spoken out against the brutal Salvadoran Army, and the people of El Salvador did not forget his courage in the face of death.  Five thousand people from El Salvador traveled nearly a thousand miles to attend the canonization in Rome of their beloved slaughtered leader, who was revered as a saint long before the Vatican proclaimed it so.

“Romero left the security of the world, even his own safety, in order to give his life to the poor and to his people,” Pope Francis said.

The ceremony to declare Romero a saint drew a total of 70,000 people to St. Peter’s Square in Rome.  Pope Francis was the first pope from Latin America, and he revealed early in his papacy that he would work for the canonization of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

The United Nations recognizes the important work and values of the life of Archbishop Romero every March 24 when it celebrates a day to promote human rights, and Westminster Abbey erected a statue of Romero in London, honoring him along with Dr. Martin Luther King as one of 10 modern martyrs.

Among the greatest moments of my life were the two times I visited the coffin of Archbishop Romero outside the cathedral in San Salvador. 

I touched the coffin lightly with one hand, and wiped away my tears with the other hand, so honored to stand beside him after his death. 

Romero was a humble, quiet man, and a giant of humility and grace.

In the face of injustice and terror, he spoke out.

Pray for us left behind who miss you so much, dear St. Oscar!

May we kneel and kiss the hands of the Lord and Mary and your hand someday in Heaven!


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