Tuesday, June 27, 2006


This week, the Vatican announced it was moving forward with 162 beatifications, the largest number yet approved under Pope Benedict XVI, under whom the activity of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has been decidedly slow. The decrees included the certification of 150 martyrdom causes, an exceeding high figure that recalls the mass beatifications under John Paul II. Strikingly, the decrees include certifications of heroic virtue of interest to the Romero case. CWNews.com reported:

Perhaps the most interesting case … is that of Father Antonio Rosmini, whose controversial theories prompted the placement of his works on the Index of forbidden books in 1849. In 1887, the Holy Office specifically condemned 40 propositions attributed to the Italian priest. But in June 2001 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith-- the successor to the Holy Office-- wrote that the works of Father Rosmini should be recognized as "idealistic and not ontological," and when his writings are seen in that perspective he was faithful to the teachings of the Church.

The case is striking for multiple reasons. First, it suggests that being implicated in disapproved theological snares is not a complete non-starter in canonizing a saint. In fact, Father Rosmini will be beatified as a confessor, not as a martyr. Canonization is considerably harder for non-martyr candidates, whose "heroic virtue" must be approved after a comprehensive review of their doctrinal orthodoxy. Secondly, it suggests that even if your views are condemned and your writings banned (compare Archbishop Romero who was never a subject of official reproach and, in contrast, whose writings and sermons were declared orthodox by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), your path to sainthood can be later cured. Thirdly, the distinction between “idealistic” and “ontological” views allows the burdened candidate a final onramp back onto the beatification path. All of this augurs very well for the Romero cause, which, of course, has several advantages over the Rosmini case, as it involves a martyrdom, and a body of preaching that has been largely vindicated by the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. (Even Cardinal Ratzinger has conceded that the concept of “Liberation Theology,” with which Romero is sometimes identified, includes “the efforts which are being made within the framework of a correct and ecclesial theology … which stresses the responsibility which Christians necessarily hear for the poor and oppressed, such as we see in the documents of the Latin American Bishops' Conference from Medellin to Puebla.”)

Friday, June 09, 2006


La noticiera católica Zenit reportó hace unos días sobre el proceso de beatificación de dos misioneros franciscanos de origen polaco que fueron asesinados en Perú por el «Sendero Luminoso» en agosto de 1991. La situación de los padres, Michael Tomaszek y el padre Zbigniew Strzalkowski, es muy parecida a la situación del conflicto salvadoreño diez años atrás, pero con los colores partidistas invertidos (o sea que en El Salvador, la ultra-derecha tenía a la Iglesia como enemiga, y en el Perú los subversivos de izquierda eran los perseguidores).

Relata la nota de Zenit:

Del 1 de enero al 22 de agosto de 1991 se alcanzó la cifra «récord» de 1.638 muertos por violencia en un país que ya registraba el 53% de los desaparecidos en todo el mundo.

En este entorno «se vio como un peligro» la actividad de la Iglesia, con la puesta en marcha de una catequesis más incisiva y la apertura de centros estables de animación cristiana. De forma que se incrementó la violencia contra los misioneros extranjeros y laicos.

Uno de los muchos panfletos de «Sendero Luminoso» decía: «Con la Biblia y la cruz pretendían ser una barrera al avance de la subversión...».

Algunos lectores que conocen el marco histórico del ministerio de Mons. Romero reconocerán instantaneamente la correspondencia entre estos detalles y lo que ocurrió en El Salvador, en que una ola de represión dejó centenas de muertos y desaparecidos, y la Iglesia se encontró en el ojo de esa represión al ser identificada como un enemigo estratégico de los para-militares, y aparecieron panfletos de una organización clandestina llamada «la Mano Blanca» que decían «Haz patria, mata un cura.»

Interesante será ver si estos procesos de beatificación son acompañados por la intriga y las acusaciones internas de la feligresia de querer entrampar, o manipular o politizar el proceso de esas beatificaciones. (Quiera Dios que no.)

Friday, June 02, 2006

BEATIFIC VISION: The Romero Beatification

THE DAY THAT OSCAR ROMERO IS BEATIFIED, the ceremony will likely be celebrated in San Salvador under norms promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI, extending the bishops’ participation in beatifications first set out by Pope John Paul II. As such, the Holy Savior Cathedral where Romero is buried would become the stage for a popular pageantry unlike any other previously seen in Latin America. As the National Catholic Reporter has noted, “Among popular 20th century Catholic icons, no saint-in-waiting figures more prominently than Oscar Romero.” The long awaited beatification would likely draw the largest crowd in Salvadoran history, but also the largest popular gathering of the Latin American church, attracting nearly all of the continent’s contingent of cardinals and bishops. Nothing in the Church’s history would rival it, except the beatification of Mother Teresa and the funeral rites of Pope John Paul.

The spectacle of Salvadoran school children wearing plaid skirts and black dress pants, filing to their designated positions in a large outdoor crowd flooding Plaza Barrios and many blocks around would be carried live over Salvadoran national television, and the VIP seating on the dais in front of the Cathedral would include official delegations from the ruling party, including the President of El Salvador, and the opposition. The Salvadoran military, which once invited Romero’s stinging rebuke would circle the perimeter of the vast multitude to keep order, while police and army helicopters buzz overhead. The ceremony would be punctuated by colorful details, such as the participation of many peasant groups who overrun San Salvador, many of them seeing the capital city for the first time. Of course, political expression would be hard to suppress. Left wing demonstrators would block traffic and burn tires in some streets, but the pressure from civil society and their discreet approval of a heavy police presence to preserve the dignity of the occasion would keep such outbursts from stealing the day’s headlines.

A fair-like atmosphere would prevail for the week leading up to the ceremony over the corridor of San Salvador that runs from the Metropolitan Cathedral downtown, to the Divine Savior landmark five miles to the west. That strip contains the Cuzcatlan Park civil war memorial where Romero’s name appears on a commemorative wall alongside that of thousands of other war victims, and is near the Divine Providence cancer hospital where Romero lived and at whose chapel he was felled by an assassin’s bullet. Mini vans ferrying pilgrims and tourists between these locations, and to the 1989 Jesuit massacre site, and other places of pilgrimage in and around the capital, would pass each other on the streets, the harried passengers laughing in recognition having passed each other at other locations. At the cancer hospital, multi-lingual guides would lead throngs of visitors into the shack where Romero lived, and the line to get into the martyrdom chapel would be measured in hours. The spot where Romero fell at the altar would be hidden under flower offerings that hospital staff would occasionally remove and send to other hospitals.

Romero’s Palm Sunday funeral in 1980 attracted the largest crowd in Salvadoran history at the time, under a military dictatorship all too willing to fire on crowds unfriendly to the government, and bishops and clerics braved a hail of bullets from guards stationed at the nearby National Palace just to be in attendance. Romero’s beatification, under much more auspicious circumstances, would likely draw the attendance of vast numbers of Salvadorans, and unprecendented numbers of visitors. The funeral of Shafick Handal earlier this year attracted vast numbers into the streets of San Salvador. Normal commemorations of Romero’s anniversary already attract thousands of pilgrims every year, and high ranking clerics have taken to leading memorial masses for Romero in various countries. In 2005, Romero masses were celebrated by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and such prominent prelates as the Archbishop of London and the Archbishop of Dublin. Romero’s beatification would likely be concelebrated by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Papal Nuncio (if not the Pope himself), and the Archbishop of San Salvador. They would likely be joined at the altar by all the archbishops of Central America, and hundreds of other high ranking clerics who would ring the crowd, as they would likely not fit at the altar.