News Headlines > Relics of Blessed Oscar Romero join 14 Catholic 'Witnesses for Freedom' in fortnight for religious liberty

Relics of Blessed Oscar Romero join 14 Catholic 'Witnesses for Freedom' in fortnight for religious liberty

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The relics of Blessed Romero join those of British saints Thomas More and John Fisher

Relics of Blessed Oscar Romero, including a handkerchief with blood from the day he was assassinated, will be on show in Los Angeles’ cathedral from today.

Archbishop Romero was martyred in El Salvador on 24 March 1980 after advocating for the rights of the poor during the civil war in El Salvador. In his homilies and on radio programs, Blessed Romero called for an end to violence, particularly for a stop to civilian killings by government forces. He received repeated death threats and was finally killed while celebrating Mass.

The relics of Blessed Romero join those of British saints Thomas More and John Fisher, forming part of 14 "witnesses for freedom", featured during a fortnight’s long national education campaign on religious liberty by the US Catholic Church.

A microphone he often used when he celebrated Mass on Sunday will be present at a special noon Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels and will be available for public veneration until 2 pm, said a statement from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

The Archdiocese said Blessed Romero, who was beatified in May 2015, "advocated for Christian love, reminding the people that they were loved by God and that fighting back with Christian charity was the way to victory during the 12-year long civil war in El Salvador".

Carlos Colorado, a lawyer from Los Angeles who blogs and writes extensively about Blessed Romero, said he was glad that a link has been established between the Salvadoran archbishop assassinated during Mass after repeatedly speaking up for the poor and against violence, and the English 16th-century saints who also spoke up during their time.

Sts Thomas Moore and Fisher challenged King Henry VIII by refusing to acknowledge him as the Supreme Head of the Church of England during the Protestant Reformation. They were convicted of treason and beheaded.

What links the three, Colorado said, is the idea that "sometimes you have to stand up to your own government". Sometimes being a person of faith will lead others to accuse you of being unpatriotic and disloyal to your country.

Today, no one questions whether St Thomas More and St John Fisher were patriots, he said. And in time, Blessed Romero, too, will be seen as a great patriot in his own country, even though he was accused of the opposite when he was alive, and even in death.

"The most important lesson is the idea of being radically faithful. You have to follow your faith even though the consequences are dire," Colorado said. That's exactly what Blessed Romero faced when he stood up for the poor and the ones who seemed to matter the least in Salvadoran society of the 1970s and 1980s, he added. "It's a level of radicalness we're unfamiliar with," he said.

Having been born in El Salvador, and because of his affinity for Blessed Romero, Colorado said being able to venerate the relics brings a special kind of joy and also gratitude toward Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H Gomez, who recognises the presence of Salvadoran Catholics in the community.

Los Angeles has one of the largest populations of Salvadorans outside El Salvador. In 2010, a census estimate put the Salvadoran community in the area at 350,000 but Salvadoran organisations believe the number to be much higher. Many of them, like Colorado, ended up in Los Angeles after fleeing their country's civil war, in which Blessed Romero was one of an estimated 75,000 killed between 1980 and 1992.

Blessed Romero’s relics will remain in Los Angeles and will not travel with the other relics for the closing of the fortnight campaign in Washington on 4 July.

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