POPE FRANCIS has beatified Oscar Romero, the Latin American
archbishop assassinated during mass in 1980 after publicly
criticising the military oppression of the poor.
The former Archbishop of San Salvador, whose statue stands in
the façade of Westminster Abbey, now takes the title "Blessed",
meaning that he may be canonised as a saint if the Pope becomes
convinced that a healing miracle has occurred at his
The beatification mass was celebrated last Saturday in the Plaza
del Divino in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador.
The relic of the blood-stained shirt worn by Archbishop Romero
when he was gunned down by an assassin, as he raised the chalice
during mass in a hospital chaplaincy, was brought to the altar in a
The postulator of Romero's cause for sainthood, Archbishop
Vincenzo Paglia, read a passage from a biography of Archbishop
Romero before the formula of beatification was read, first in Latin
and then in Spanish.
Before the event, Pope Francis sent a letter to the President of
El Salvador's Bishops' Conference, Archbishop José Luis Escobar
Alas of San Salvador, describing Romero as "a zealous bishop who .
. . converted himself in the image of Christ the Good
"In times of difficult co-existence, Mgr Romero knew how to
guide, defend, and protect his flock, remaining faithful to the
gospel and in communion with all the Church," the Pope said.
"His ministry was distinguished by his particular care for the
poorest and most marginalised."
The homily was preached by the Italian Prefect of the
Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato,
representing the Pope. The Cardinal said that Archbishop Romero's
memory continued to give "consolation to the poor and marginalised
of the earth".
He recalled how the murder of Fr Rutilio Grande, a Salvadoran
Jesuit priest working with the poor, had "touched the heart of the
Archbishop", who subsequently became more explicit in defending the
oppressed and the persecuted clergy who assisted them, irrespective
of the daily threats to his own life.
Cardinal Amato also said that Romero's concern for the poor "was
not ideological but evangelical".
"His charity extended also to the persecutors to whom he
preached conversion to the good, and to whom he assured
forgiveness, despite everything," he said.
Christian Aid, which worked with Romero in the 1970s, was among
those groups and individuals to welcome the beatification.
The director of PROCARES, a Christian Aid partner organisation
in El Salvador, Berta Aguirre, said that it represented a new
chapter in the country's history, and a chance to highlight ongoing
She said: "Romero's beatification means a lot for this country
and for the victims of the civil war. It highlights the terrible
situation of repression and injustice that many of us have lived
with for years.
"Romero was a man of faith. His only sin was to preach the
Pope Francis this year cleared the way for the beatification by
recognising Romero's death as a martyrdom inflicted because of
"hatred of the faith" rather than simply a murder. The RC Church
considers martyrdom akin to a "second baptism" that sends the
candidate straight to heaven, and therefore does not require the
validation of a healing miracle.
No one has been prosecuted for the murder of Archbishop Romero,
but it is widely believed that he was murdered by one of the
right-wing death squads terrorising the poor of his country at that
His death came at the start of a 12-year civil war that claimed
an estimated 75,000 lives in the Central American country.
His cause for canonisation opened in 1993, but appeared to make
slow progress in spite of Pope John Paul II's praying before his
tomb, and Pope Benedict XVI's expressing the view that his death
was "a witness of faith".
Romero's feast day will be celebrated on 24 March, the date of