POPE FRANCIS has officially recognised the martyrdom of
Archbishop Oscar Romero, clearing the way for his beatification -
possibly within months.
The Pope has signed a decree to declare that Romero, who was
shot dead as he celebrated mass in a hospital chapel in San
Salvador, on 24 March 1980, was killed in "odium fidei",
or "hatred of the faith".
The declaration on Tuesday followed an audience between the Pope
and the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints,
Cardinal Angelo Amato. The Congregation concluded last month that
the assassination of Romero constituted a martyrdom rather than a
murder motivated by his political interventions.
No one has been prosecuted for the murder of Romero, whose
statue stands in a niche outside Westminster Abbey, but it is
widely believed that he was murdered by one of the right-wing death
squads that terrorised the poor of his country, El Salvador.
A doctrinally orthodox priest, he was not known for political
involvement when he was appointed as the Archbishop of San Salvador
on 22 February 1977.
Within a week of his consecration, however, demonstrators
protesting against electoral fraud were massacred, and within three
weeks his close friend, the Jesuit priest Rutilio Grande, was
murdered by a death squad.
Romero subsequently emerged as a courageous and vocal champion
of the oppressed, and soon became a target himself.
Shortly before he was shot, Romero predicted his own death,
saying that he was unworthy of the "grace" of martyrdom. "But if
God accepts the sacrifice of my life, let my blood be a seed of
freedom and the sign that hope will soon be reality," he said. "Let
my death, if it is accepted by God, be for the liberation of my
His cause for canonisation opened in 1993, but appeared to make
slow progress. Pope John Paul II prayed before his tomb, however;
and Pope Benedict XVI said that his death was "a witness of
Delays were said to be caused by the Congregation of the
Doctrine of the Faith's having to study his writings to determine
whether he was killed for the faith, or for opposing the death
Last August, Pope Francis said publicly that he would like to
see the Archbishop's cause progress as "quickly as possible". A
date for the beatification was expected to be announced as the
Church Times was going to press.
Pope Francis also recognised the martyrdoms of the Polish
Franciscan priests Michal Tomaszek and Zbigniew Strazalkowski, and
the Italian priest Alessandro Dordi, who were killed in Peru in
1991 by Shining Path Communist insurgents.
The aid agency CAFOD, which worked closely with Archbishop Oscar
Romero, expressed "delight" at the news.
"Archbishop Romero was one of the most inspirational figures of
the 20th Century, and we are delighted that his
beatification has been confirmed," said Chris Bain, director of
CAFOD. "He was an extremely brave man, who was inspired by his
faith to fight not just poverty but injustice, to give a voice to
"He didn't simply talk about the need to love your neighbour,
but courageously denounced the violence and named the injustices
that plagued his country. He reminded us that Christ is found in
people living in poverty, and that we cannot ignore the suffering
of our brothers and sisters in need.
"His words were full of courage and hope, and they still
resonate strongly with us today. 'Many,' he said, 'would like the
poor to keep on saying it is God's will for them to live that way.
But it is not God's will for some to have everything and others to
have nothing. That cannot be of God.'"
In the 1970s, CAFOD supported Archbishop Romero's radio
broadcasts. When the station was blown up, CAFOD provided funding
to rebuild it. The charity continues to work in El Salvador,
including defending human rights.