Pope Paul VI, the spiritual mentor and strong supporter of Archbishop Romero, has been approved for beatification, according to reports. The Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Vatican agency charged with recognizing new saints, met with Pope Benedict XVI and reported that separate commissions, one composed of theologians and another made up of cardinals and bishops, had both reached the same conclusion—that Giovanni Battista Montini, who reigned as Pope Paul VI between 1963 and 1978—meets the requirements of “heroic virtue” to be recognized as a saint. The process for ultimate recognition as a saint is a long one, with additional procedural hurdles to clear. Pope Paul will be called “venerable” now, and he could be called “blessed” and “saint” in separate stages, each requiring the recognition of a miracle attributed to his intercession.
As noted in this blog in earlier posts, Pope Paul was a strong influence on Archbishop Romero’s public ministry. Romero went as far as to say that Pope Paul was the man “who continually enlightens my thinking” on the social doctrine of the Church. Romero was influenced by numerous encyclicals, or documents containing papal doctrine, issued by Paul and relating to social issues, from the time that Romero was a priest through his ordination as a bishop and he cited them often to justify his ministry. Pope Paul raised Romero to the episcopate in 1970, made him a consultor on the Pope’s Pontifical Commission on Latin America in 1975, and appointed him Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977. When Pope Paul met Romero after appointing him as a bishop, he encouraged him to “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.” And when Romero came to Rome after a showdown with Salvadoran military dictators over prosecution of the Church, Pope Paul told him, “Courage! You are the one in charge!”
In fact, Pope Paul was a father figure to Romero, to Pope John Paul II, and to the current pope, as Paul was twenty years their senior, and he created John Paul and Benedict as cardinals, as well as sponsoring Romero in his various promotions. In his own encyclical on social issues, «CARITAS IN VERITATE,» Pope Benedict says that Paul, “identified the heart of the Christian social message” and praises him as the most influential pontiff on social issues since the 19th Cent. Pope Leo XIII.
The advance of Pope Paul’s beatification must necessarily contribute to Romero’s own beatification process.