Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Archbishop Romero and the Popes (cont’d)

Archbishop Romero said outright that Pope Paul VI (pontificate: 1963-1978) was the man “who continually enlightens my thinking [on] ... matters [of the social doctrine of the Church]”, and he elegized the Pontiff as having struck the right balance between secular and spiritual concerns—“a man who understood the present time and never betrayed the eternal Word.” (November 19, 1978 Homily.) —This is a series on Romero’s fidelity to the popes and their social teachings.— “Your bishop, my sisters and brothers,” Romero told his flock, “is in communion with Peter who today is called Paul VI.” (April 9, 1978 Hom.) Paul’s papal infallibility, Romero preached, “assures people that the doctrine of Paul VI is the doctrine of Peter and the doctrine of Jesus Christ,” and Romero’s communion with Paul should assure them, “that the doctrine that the humble Archbishop of San Salvador preaches to the people is also the truth.” (July 2, 1978 Hom.)

Under the pontificate of Giovanni Battista Montini, Msgr. Romero had been created a bishop in 1970, appointed the ordinary in Santiago de Maria in 1974, elevated to a prestigious post as a consultor on Paul’s Pontifical Commission on Latin America in 1975, and appointed Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977. When Romero visited the Pontiff in late March 1977 after taking over the Archdiocese of San Salvador, it was a crowning moment. The Pope “singled him out among the others present at the audience and introduced him to the group.” (James BROCKMAN, Romero: A Life. New York: Orbis Books, 1989, p. 20).

But, Romero had started out as a tenuous follower of a man he called “the most reforming Pontiff in history.” (O.A.R., El Papa del equilibrio [The Pope of Balance], DIARIO DE ORIENTE, vol. 30858, p. 1, June 26, 1973, available here—in Spanish.) Looking back on the first decade of Paul’s pontificate in 1973, Romero marveled, “How far he has taken us already!” (DIARIO, Ibid.) The next year, Romero was still aghast at Paul’s prodigious reforms. The Second Vatican Council (the internal Church reforms launched by John XXIII in the 1960s), Romero noted, “had only been the starting point for Paul VI. He has been and continues to be,” Romero wrote, “the most intrepid driver of that ambitious and broad reform program” of Vatican II. (O.A.R., El Papa del Concilio y del Año Santo [The Pope of the Council and of the Holy Year], DIARIO DE ORIENTE, vol. 30907, p. 1, July 4, 1974, available here—in Spanish.)

Óscar Romero had gone along with Paul’s reforms because of Romero’s personal obedience to the Church, because he had met the Pope and was drawn in by his personality and, most of all, because of the masterful integrity of Paul’s teachings, especially his social magisterium. As Pope Benedict has stated, Paul VI, “identified the heart of the Christian social message” («CARITAS IN VERITATE ¶13). Romero cited Pope Paul VI often in his homilies, pastoral letters, and other preachings. Although it would not be practical to catalog all of the references, Romero liked to cite Paul’s «EVANGELII NUNTIANDI especially, for the proposition that liberation, though necessary, cannot be divorced from transcendence (See, e.g., Oct. 23, 1977; Apr. 30, Jun. 4, and Sep. 10, 1978; and Aug. 5 and 26, 1979 homilies). Romero cited «POPULORUM PROGRESSIO» frequently—and, often, at length—to justify his actions (See, e.g., Jul. 10 and Oct. 9, 1977; Jan. 1, and 15, Feb. 5 and 26, and Sept. 24, 1978 homilies). He also quoted from Paul’s «OCTAGESIMA ADVENIENS» (See, March 5, 1978 Hom.)

In addition to citing Paul’s principal social documents, Romero also pointed to other examples from the Pope’s public ministry. “When we spoke privately,” Romero told the faithful, “the Pope said to me: ‘We preach not only with words because our preaching must also be a testimony of our whole life’.” (July 2, 1978 Hom.) And so, Romero cited Paul’s visit to the Holy Land to urge the faithful to imitate the humility of the Holy Family. (December 30, 1979 Hom.) Romero used Paul’s visit to the U.N. to underline the thought that the Church has something to offer to political leaders because the Church is “an expert in humanity.” (March 2, 1980 Hom.) Romero cited Paul’s humanism (July 17, 1977 Hom.), and pointed to Paul’s appeal for the life of Aldo Moro to denounce kidnappings and killings by the Left in El Salvador (May 21, 1978 Hom.). He even pointed to Paul’s condemnation of contraception as an argument for social justice: “ ‘How sad the fate of human beings to have to deprive people of participating in the banquet of life because they do not know how to share. It is not a question of depriving people from entering the banquet of life but rather one of serving the tables in a way that everyone receives some bread’.” (February 24, 1980 Hom.)

The admiration was mutual, because Paul VI consistently was supportive of Romero:
  • When Paul VI first met Romero in 1974, when Romero became Bishop of Santiago de Maria, Romero showed him where Santiago de Maria was on a map, and Paul promised to pray for the tiny diocese. (O.A.R., Como signo de Comunión con el Papa [A Sign of Communion with the Pope], DIARIO DE ORIENTE, vol. 30930, p. 1, November 23, 1974, available here—in Spanish.) Paul gave him $5,000 as a gift for the diocese, and the Pontifical Commission gave Romero an additional $3,000, plus a complete set of Vatican publications dating back to 1909. (BROCKMAN, Op. Cit., p. 53.) The Pontiff told the new bishop: “Continue onward, follow your line, follow your style, don’t be afraid to profess and teach what you have learned in the magisterium of the Church.” (DIARIO, Ibid.)
  • In October 1975, Romero met with Paul again, and “told him how much we Salvadorans love him and respect him,” when his turn came to greet the Pontiff. Romero gave the Pope a record of Salvadoran folkloric music, which the Pope promised to listen to. (O.A.R., Un ‘Romero’ del Año Santo [A Holy Year ‘Pilgrim’ (in Spanish, romero = “pilgrim”)], DIARIO DE ORIENTE, p. 1, November 9, 1975, available here—in Spanish.)
  • In March 1977, Romero met with the Pope, after the assassination of Fr. Rutilio Grande, and after Romero started his archbishopric on a decidedly strong note of denunciation. When Romero attempted to explain his actions, “The Pope took both of Romero’s hands in his and urged him: ‘Courage! You are the one in charge! ” (BROCKMAN, Supra., p. 20.)
  • The final meeting between Archibishop Romero and Pope Paul VI took place on June 21, 1978. The Pontiff told Romero “that he understood how difficult his work as archbishop was and that it was often misunderstood.” (BROCKMAN, Ibid., p. 131.) This meeting, Romero noted, “left me with the satisfaction of a confirmation in my Faith, in my service, in my joy to work and to suffer with Christ, for the Church, and for our people.” (His Diary, June 21, 1978.)
Archbishop Romero followed Pope Paul's leadership on development and social justice, he looked to the Pope for confirmation, and the Pope approved of his faithful discliple’s ministry.

NEXT: John Paul


Paul as father figure to Wojtila, Ratzinger & Romero

Benedict's tribute to Paul VI

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