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Pope Francis' words (on the plane home from Korea) in regard to Oscar Romero's beatification have brought great joy here in El Salvador and indeed around the world.
But the first media reports have been somewhat misleading. It is important to read what Pope Francis actually said:
“The process was blocked in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “for reasons of prudence,” it was said.
Now it is unblocked and it is in the Congregation for Saints and follows the normal path of a process. It depends on how the postulators move; it’s very important to move in haste.
What I would like is to have clarified when there is martyrdom in "odium fidei" [out of hate for the faith], whether it is for confessing the credo or for performing the works that Jesus commands us to do for our neighbour. This is a work of theologians that is being studied. Because behind him [Romero], there is Rutilio Grande and there are others. There are others that were also killed but are not at the same height as Romero. This has to be distinguished theologically.
For me, Romero is a man of God. He was a man of God but there has to be the process, and the Lord will have to give his sign [of approval]. But if He wishes, He will do so! The postulators must move now because there are no impediments.”
This was the first declaration of any kind on Romero emanating from the Vatican in 2014.
There was nothing that was totally new in it. But from Pope Francis' own lips came the restatement of last year’s announcement that the canonisation process, until then blocked in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “for reasons of prudence" (interesting phrase being used here by Pope Francis), had been "unblocked". He confirmed what we knew already, that after Cardinal Müller gave the CDF's nihil obstat [no objection] last September in relation to Romero's theological and doctrinal orthodoxy, there are no further impediments to the canonisation process going forward. And he asserted once again that the examination of the cause will follow the norms and procedures of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Pope Francis helpfully explained that the remaining issue is the certification of martyrdom; and he set out in simple terms, without prejudging the matter, what is in question around the vexed concept of ‘odium fidei’ [hatred of the faith, death because of which is martyrdom]. Yet he made it crystal clear, by his emphasis on speedily completing the process, that he expects to see a positive outcome.
That sense of urgency which he communicates is especially noteworthy. He seemed to be telling the postulators of the cause to get a move on and finish their work so that the process can be quickly concluded.
In the light of this, my expectation is that there will be an official announcement of the beatification in the first quarter of 2015. My working hypothesis is that the beatification ceremony will take place in San Salvador before the end of 2015 – probably with the Pope presiding, perhaps as a side trip within his projected visit to the US next year.
The suggestion in some media that this unrehearsed statement was an endorsement of liberation theology and left-wing politics on the part of Pope Francis is plainly absurd.
It was an affirmation (as authoritative as one could ever hope for) that Romero’s canonisation process is moving forward without hindrance, that the Pope himself is enthusiastic about it, and that after years of procrastination, when opponents of Romero’s canonisation inside the Roman Curia blocked its progress, it should soon, deo volente, be brought to a happy conclusion.
Julian Filochowski is the Chairman of the Archbishop Romero Trust