Obama Lights Candle at Archbishop Romero's Tomb

Visit Seen As «Global Event»; President Pressed on Immigration

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SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador, MARCH 23, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The current archbishop of San Salvador has called U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero a «global event» that could help to improve the image of the slain archbishop worldwide.

Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas said this in a statement ahead of Obama’s visit Tuesday night to the resting place of Archbishop Romero, located in San Salvador’s Metropolitan Cathedral. The U.S. president lit a candle at the archbishop’s tomb, accompanied by Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes and Archbishop Escobar Alas.  

The visit took place in the context of Obama’s tour of Latin America, during which he stopped in Chile and Brazil before spending two days in El Salvador. The president, who left today for Washington, spoke to the region of economic development, immigration and drug-related violence.

Archbishop Romero was assassinated March 24, 1980, when celebrating Mass. He was a defender of the poor and a staunch critic of the U.S.-backed El Salvadoran government, who he rebuked for violating the human rights of its citizens.

Obama said after the visit that he «was honored to visit the cathedral […] and pay my respects to Archbishop Romero, who remains an inspiration to people all around the world.»

Concern for migrants

Ahead of Tuesday’s visit, Archbishop Escobar Alas had called on Obama to expedite the legislative work to achieve comprehensive immigration reform that «benefits Salvadorans and citizens of other nations who do not have permanent resident status in the American nation.»

The prelate asked for a more dignified treatment to thousands of Salvadorans who seek to enter the United States in search of better opportunities in life and work and, and to do away with «laws that unjustly criminalize innocent people simply for the act of crossing a border.»

The archbishop said that he knows the task is difficult, but that he hoped to be able to speak to Obama about it, and that the president would «commit himself» to immigration reform.

Archbishop Escobar Alas also called for permanent status to be given to the 250,000 Salvadorans who have been allowed to stay in the country under Temporary Protected Status.

Regarding Archbishop Romero, the current archbishop of San Salvador said the president’s visit would not «affect the process of beatification,» which is under way in the Vatican.

Archbishop Romero is currently considered a servant of God. The prelate would need either a declaration of martyrdom or heroic virtue to pass to the next stage in the canonization process.

In 2005, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith reported that it found no erroneous teachings in the writings of Archbishop Romero. In 2008, however, it was reported that Archbishop Romero’s cause was stalled because of concern that the figure of the prelate is politicized and a source of disunity in El Salvador.

That same year, Benedict XVI recalled Archbishop Romero in an address to the Salvadoran envoy to the Holy See as one of the «pastors full of love for God» who has helped to root the Gospel in the Central American nation, «bringing abundant fruits of Christian life and holiness.»

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