Tuesday, May 03, 2011

BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE BEATIFICATION


In the world of beatifications, John Paul II’s recognition as a “blessed over the weekend was the only show in town. It was the main event. Pick your own cliché! Oscar Romero cropped up in some of the grumbling about John Paul’s beatification but, as usual, these discussions tended not to show much profundity of analysis or shed particular insight. (This Italian piece slamming the Catholic canonization process misleadingly implies that Opus Dei guards the San Salvador Cathedral and bars access to Archbishop Romero’s grave!) You had to look deeper—and with a knowing eye—to glean a valid insight.

In Rome for John Paul’s beatification were many official delegations, including Salvadoran Foreign Minister Hugo Martínez. In addition to making the usual diplomatic rounds with the Vatican Secretary of State and Italian officials, the Foreign Minister paid a call on Msgr. Vincenzo Paglia, the Postulator of Archbishop Romero’s Canonization Cause, to get a status report on the progress of the beatification. The Foreign Ministry reported that Bishop Paglia delivered an assessment that the process has attained “a good level of advancement.” Interestingly, Paglia told Martínez that the process is with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—meaning, that the Church is still studying questions of Archbishop Romero’s doctrinal fidelity to Church teaching. Reassuringly, the Postulator told the Foreign Minister that the Congregation has found no fault with Archbishop Romero’s orthodoxy to date and that, when the CDF’s review is concluded, the process will be remanded to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for the “final stage” of the approval process.

Also in Rome for John Paul’s beatification are four Salvadoran bishops, including the Archbishop of San Salvador, Msgr. José Luis Escobar Alas, and his auxiliary, Msgr. Gregorio Rosa Chávez, it was reported. Although their visit is low key and unofficial in character (it is not an ad limina visit), one can be sure that four bishops traveling thousands of miles to their spiritual headquarters will not limit their activities to taking in the tourist sites, and very likely will be meeting with Vatican officials, including those in charge of Romeros’ canonization (especially, at a time when the topic is in the air). Among the issues likely to be discussed in those meetings is, whether the Salvadoran Church and Salvadoran society has reached sufficient unity to receive the news of Romero’s beatification with joy and to draw the appropriate inspiration. Reportedly, the Salvadoran bishops had been working on a declaration of unity to submit to the Vatican, and they may even be delivering it in Rome this week.

Foreign Minister Martínez issued a statement intended to address such concerns, declaring that “Archbishop Romero is a figure of universal character, who does not belong to any particular sector, but to the world.” Martínez highlighted that John Paul himself said words to that effect when he visited Romero’s grave, putting the Salvadoran martyr on the path to canonization. Martínez also recalled that the Salvadoran State had accepted responsibility for its part in the assassination—all of which should help Vatican officials to proclaim Romero’s death a “martyrdom” under canon law.

In the decidedly “unofficial” side of canonization news, a freewheeling assortment of liberal theologians made an “Ecumenical Appeal” for the recognition on May 1 (the same day as John Paul’s beatification) that Archbishop Romero has been canonized “by the poor.” The appeal originated with the German branch of the “We Are Church” movement, which promotes women and gays in the priesthood, among other “progressive reforms,” and has been endorsed by signatories from 16 countries and 50 organizations, including the Swiss theologian Hans Küng, the French bishop Jacques Gaillot, and the Brazilian bishop Luís Flávio Cappio, OFM, as well as a smattering of theologians from various denominations. The “Appeal” seems to have been made with very short notice—it was announced on April 27 and called for ecumenical “recognition” of Romero’s sainthood on May 1st. Worse yet, given its due date, the Appeal may seem more like an anti-John Paul provocation than a legitimate pro-Oscar Romero act, and its ill-defined parameters may stop it from being a workable plan. Nevertheless, this latest salvo is another step in the ecumenical acceptance of Romero’s saintliness, which includes the Anglican Church’s recognition of Romero’s “Feast Day” in its liturgical calendar.

Photo: Salvadoran Foreign Minister Hugo Martínez (right) discusses Archbishop Romero's beatification process with Msgr. Vincenzo Paglia, the postulator of the cause.
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