Wednesday, December 31, 2008

TOP 10 ROMERO STORIES OF 2008

To be sure, 2008 was not an Oscar Romero year. The Vatican was mum on the progress of the beatification cause, and efforts to investigate his unsolved assassination seem to have lost steam after some movement the previous year. Nevertheless, the memory of Archbishop Romero persisted, and:

1. Pope Benedict cited Archbishop Romero when he received the Salvadoran bishops in their ad limina visit in February. In his fourth or fifth public remarks relating to Romero, Benedict said Romero figured among the "pastors filled with love" who preach the gospel with "fervor."

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2. Wearing resplandescent, ermine-trimmed white robes, the Pontiff approached Romero again in April, when he paid tribute to a chapel honoring XX Century martyrs including Romero. The pope lit a candle at the altar where Romero's relics are kept. "The option in favor of the smallest and most poor, which mark the life of the Christian community, sometimes give rise to violent loathing," he said.

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3. Pope Benedict XVI named Monsignor José Luis Escobar Alas as the new Archbishop of San Salvador. The new successor to Archbishop Romero will be instrumental in guiding Archbishop Romero's canonization cause.

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4. In July, the Pope named a new prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Church institution that recognizes new saints and is studying Archbishop Romero's sainthood cause. The new prefect, Archbishop Angelo Amato, was the co-signer of the 2007 Notificatio against Jon Sobrino.

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5. In August, the Salvadoran presidential candidate Mauricio Funes took part in celebrations of Archbishop Romero's birthday in Romero's home town: a sign of things to come. If Mr. Funes is elected (he has led in every poll), he would likely bring large state recognition to Archbishop Romero's cause in El Salvador for the first time.

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6. Before retiring as Prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Portuguese Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins said that Archbishop Romero's canonization cause was at a standstill while the Church analyzed the question of whether he was killed for political reasons or hatred of the faith (which is required in order to qualify a person as a martyr-saint).

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7. Influential Salvadoran bishop Gregorio Rosa Chávez said in an interview that Archbishop Romero's case is "ripe for sentencing." In contrast to other voices in the Church (see #6 above), Bishop Rosa said the great questions attending the beatification cause have already been answered.

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8. Latin American church giant, Colombian Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, passed away this year. Through a career in CELAM (the Latin America Bishops' Conference), he became a vocal opponent of Liberation Theology and was believed to have interposed legal objections to Archbishop Romero's beatification cause that slowed down the Vatican's handling of the case.

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9. In March, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano ran an extensive retrospective about Archbishop Romero, which included a clarification of the Archbishop's relationship with several popes, which sought to set straight rumors of tense relations with Rome. The report was seen as evidence of the church hierarchy's growing embrace.

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10. Finally, tributes and commemorations of Archbishop Romero continued to mount, including speeches by Sr. Dianna Ortiz and Bishop Medardo Gomez, and an inclusion in a new, award-winning book about Latin American saints.

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Happy new year one and all!
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