Thursday, May 23, 2013


Pope Francis received Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes in a private audience in which they discussed Archbishop Oscar A. Romero’s canonization cause.  [Video.]  According to a statement from the presidency, the Pope told Funes that “we must have faith” in the possible canonization of Romero and believe that the process will progress rapidly, and that “after Archbishop Romero could come other canonizations”. The statement adds that, “He himself (the Pope) cited the case of Father Rutilio Grande”. The President pointed out that he was a pupil of Father Grande, who was killed three years before Romero, who then drew inspiration from his example. 

The Salvadoran president gave the Pope a reliquary containing a piece of garment that Msgr. Romero was wearing when he was assassinated. At the center of the garment, clearly visible, is a bloodstain (photo). The reliquary monstrance is in the shape of a cross, with the arms depicting stylized human figures, representing the participation of the people of God in the death of their bishop. Funes told the Pope that Romero was always surrounded by people and especially children.  It is the work of the Sisters of Divine Providence Hospital in the chapel where Romero was killed. The director of the Holy See Press Office said the Holy Father was touched by the gift given to him by President Funes.  “This was a beautiful and a very significant gift,” Fr. Federico Lombardi said.
Funes sought the papal audience after Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the cleric spearheading Romero’s canonization, announced a month ago that the cause had been ‘unblocked.’  We wish to prod the beatification process along,” Funes said in an interview.  He also said he wanted to thank Pope Francis for signaling that the cause should proceed.  He took the Pontiff’s decision as “a hopeful sign that it is seen as going well.” 

If we can help with anything to prod the cause along we will do it,” Funes said last month.  He added that, “My perception is it can be done such that after that audience I can bring back welcome news to the nation.”

El Salvador’s ambassador to the Holy See, Manuel Lopez, told The Associated Press yesterday that when he met Francis, the Pope told him, ‘‘I hope that under this pontificate we can beatify [Romero].’’  The Vatican spokesman, Fr. Lombardi, confirmed that Francis is indeed very much in favor of the slain archbishop's sainthood case.

Father Lombardi told reporters after the president's meeting with the pope that Archbishop Romero's “cause is going forward in the Congregation for Saints' Causes, according to church rules” and that it is solely up to the congregation “to inform us” about the status of the process.
Eight years earlier, Pope Benedict XVI received El Salvador’s then-president Elias Antonio Saca, in June 2005 and the two had discussed the status of Romero’s canonization cause.  Mr. Saca had served as an altar boy for Archbishop Romero.  In July 2007, Mr. Saca’s government publicly petitioned the Vatican to canonize Romero, in an effort to settle complaints about the lack of an official investigation of the crime.

Mr. Funes was elected to succeed Mr. Saca as a candidate of the leftwing FMLN, the former guerrillas who squared off against rightwing forces and a military dictatorship that ruled El Salvador through the early 1980s.  When Mr. Funes came to office, he vowed to make Romero his moral reference point and has declared Romero as the “spiritual guide of El Salvador.”  On the 30th anniversary of Romero's death, Funes acknowledged state participation in the assassination and asked forgiveness for it.


Mauricio Funes has pulled off a gesture that is worthy of Pope Francis himself.  The Pope has made his mark as a leader who does not rely on masterful oratory but on simple, but immediately universal gestures and words.  Funes traveled for two days to arrive in Rome for a private meeting with the Pope that lasted a mere 12 minutes.  Whatever Funes said to the Pope to “push” for Romero’s beatification, it was very brief.  By all accounts, they also spoke about the Salvadoran government’s current efforts to pacify El Salvador’s gang-dominated society and about other matters of moral concern to the Church, including the defense of life and the protection of marriage.  But what the world will take away—especially, the Catholic world—from this meeting is that picture of the ornate reliquary containing Romero’s blood.  That image, of the Pope and the reliquary, could redefine Romero for the Catholic world, because it is not an image of revolution.  Instead, it is the imagery of sainthood.


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