Archbishop Oscar Romero: Pastor and Martyr

Postulator, Biographer and Former Secretary of Salvadoran Prelate Discuss his Life and Service to the Church

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“I put my whole life under the loving providence of Jesus’ Heart and I accept my death with faith in Him, no matter how difficult it is. Nor do I want to give it an intention, as I would like, for peace in my country and for the flowering of our Church … because Christ’s Heart will give it the destiny He wishes. It is sufficient for me, to be happy and confident, to know with certainty that my life and death are in Him. And, my sins notwithstanding, I have put my trust in Him and I will not be disturbed and others will continue with more wisdom and holiness the works of the Church and of the Homeland.”

These words were spoken by the Servant of God, Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez, Archbishop of San Salvador, one month before being murdered in 1980 while he was celebrating the Eucharist. Now, after a long process, Pope Francis has approved the Decree that recognizes his martyrdom. Although the date has yet to be established, Archbishop Romero will be beatified this year in San Salvador.

During a press conference held at the Holy See Press Office, the Postulator of his Cause, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, was able to confirm the place but not the exact date, although he said it would be “as soon as possible.”

Also present along with Monsignor Paglia, were Monsignor Jesus Delgado, who was Archbishop Romero’s personal secretary during his years as Archbishop, and Professor Roberto Morozzo della Rocca, historian of the University “Roma Tre.”

The process of Beatification, which began in 1994, has been long awaited. After this trajectory, which experienced many difficulties both because of the opposition to the thought and pastoral action of the Archbishop as well as the conflicting situation that was created around his figure, the itinerary has ended, announced Monsignor Paglia.

Therefore, he was grateful to Pope Francis, but also to Benedict XVI “who has followed the Cause since the beginning and who on December 20, 2012 – shortly a month before his resignation – decided to unblock it so that it could continue its usual path.” He also showed his gratitude to John Paul II, who remembered Archbishop Romero in the celebration of the New Martyrs during the Jubilee of the Year 2000, including his name, absent in the text, in the final “Oremus.” In addition, he also mentioned Paul VI, “whom Romero regarded as his inspiration and  who was, for him, his defender.”

On the other hand, Archbishop Paglia noted that “Romero’s martyrdom gave meaning and strength to many Salvadorian families that had lost relatives and friends during the civil war. His memory became immediately the memory of the other victims, perhaps less known, of the violence.”

Moreover, he also spoke of a providential coincidence: the Beatification will take place while, for the first time, a Latin American Pope who wants a “poor Church for the poor, is in Peter’s Chair.”

Recalling the work that Salvadoran prelate did as pastor, Archbishop Paglia  stressed that at that time “the atmosphere of persecution was palpable. However, Romero became clearly the defender of the poor in face of fierce repression. After two years in the Archbishopric of San Salvador, Romero could count 30 lost priests, between those killed, those expelled, and claims to escape death. The death squads killed dozens of catechists  of the grassroots communities, and many of the faithful of these communities disappeared. The Church was the main institution involved and, therefore, the most attacked. Romero resisted and agreed to give his life to defend his people.”

Also recalled today were the accusations Monsignor Romero suffered and – has also suffered after dying – of being linked to Liberation Theology. During the conference, the postulator of Romero’s cause, recalled an anecdote.

“A journalist once asked him: ‘Do you agree with Liberation Theology’ And Romero answered: “Yes, of course. However, there are two theologies of liberation. One is that which sees liberation only as material liberation. The other is that of Paul VI. I am with Paul VI.”

For his part, Monsignor Jesus Delgado recalled how Archbishop Romero asked him to be his secretary. “Father Jesus, help me; the clergy does not love me; help me to have greater closeness with the clergy of San Salvador; I want you to be my secretary,” he said.

From that moment, until the day of his death, Father Delgado accompanied him in his mission. Another episode that he also recalled happened the day that Archbishop Romero was killed. That morning, March 24, 1980, Father Delgado suggested to Monsignor Romero that he take a day of rest. The Archbishop picked up his agenda, saw his appointments and told him that he had Mass for a friend who had died, which was to be in the afternoon and that perhaps Father could substitute him. However, before taking his leave, Archbishop Romero said to him: “Better not, I will celebrate the Mass, I don’t want to implicate anyone in this.” Monsignor Delgado said that this last memory has accompanied him always as a blessing, an announcement, a grace of God, “I could have been killed in his place.”

To conclude, he observed, that the recognition of the sacrifice of Archbishop Romero represents for Salvadorians a new appeal to unity and peace. “I’m sure that the forthcoming Beatification will lead to the realization of the great miracle of the fraternal encounter of all Salvadorians, surmounting all political, social and economic divisions,” he stressed.

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Rocío Lancho García

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