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The television version of Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall is the latest account to challenge St Thomas More’s reputation as a courageous defender of the rights of conscience. Was he, in truth, a liberal icon, a religious fanatic or something in between?
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A sainthood cause is to be opened for the man whose assassination inspired Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero to speak out against injustice as his country slid towards civil war.
Fr Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit priest and close friend of Archbishop Romero, was killed along with the two others on 12 March 1977, which many believe was provoked by Fr Grande’s advocacy for the poor in El Salvador.
The current Archbishop of San Salvador, Jose Luis Escobar, announced on Tuesday that he is launching a diocesan inquiry, the first phase in a canonisation process, according to Fr José María Tojeira, former rector of the Jesuit university in the city.
Archbishop Romero had initially adopted a non-confrontational stance to the country’s military regime but experienced a “conversion” moment after travelling to Fr Grande’s parish after the assassination.
Archbishop Romero is quoted as saying: “When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead, I thought: if they killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path.”
From that point on the archbishop became an outspoken critic of the Government and an advocate for the poor. He was assassinated in 1980 while saying Mass.
Fr Grande was an early promoter of liberation theology and got to know Archbishop Romero when they lived together in the seminary. He was master of ceremonies at Romero’s episcopal ordination in 1970.
When Pope Francis met with the President of El Salvador in May 2013, the Pope suggested that Father Grande could be canonised.
The Pope has already indicated his support for making Archbishop Romero a saint and the cause has recently been given the “green light” in the Vatican.
Meanwhile, American Archbishop Fulton Sheen, renowned for his preaching on television and radio, has taken a step closer to sainthood after experts verified a miracle attributed to him.