03 February 2015, The Tablet

Pope Francis declares Oscar Romero a martyr

Pope Francis has signed a decree declaring Archbishop Oscar Romero died a martyr, raising expectations that a beatification could be announced within months.

The Vatican said today it will be holding press briefing in Rome tomorrow with Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the Vatican official leading the cause for the Salvadoran prelate’s sainthood.

Last month theologians at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted unanimously that Romero was killed in “hatred of the faith”.

Archbishop Romero was shot dead on 24 March 1980 by right-wing death squads colluding with the then-Government. Romero had been a vocal critic of the ruling elite in El Salvador for their record on human rights and their harsh treatment of the poor.

Opinion within El Salvador was for a long time bitterly divided over Romero's legacy but the current President, leftist Mauricio Funes, has prayed at his tomb and in 2013 presented Pope Francis with a reliquary containing a blood-stained piece of the vestments Romero was wearing when he was shot dead.

Pope and President FunesRomero’s cause was first opened in 1994 and was moved to Rome three years later, but was then held up while the orthodoxy of his preaching was examined and over debates about whether he had been killed for political or religious reasons.

In 2013 under Pope Francis, an admirer of Romero, the late archbishop’s cause was declared “unblocked” and has moved forward rapidly since.

Archbishop Romero was Archbishop of San Salvador from 1977-80 and is already honoured in the Anglican liturgical calendar and one Lutheran one. He is depicted as one of the martyrs of the twentieth-century outside Westminster Abbey.

Top: Archbishop Romero. Above: President Funes and Pope Francis with the relic. Photos: CNS, Reuters

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