When, Msgr. Jesús Delgado of the Romero Foundation, met with Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio in May 2010, Archbishop Óscar Romero’s beatification cause appeared to be on life support. Delgado reminded Bergoglio that the then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires had said three years before that if he were Pope, the very first thing he would do is order the beatification of Archbishop Romero. “I remember it, the problem is that I will never get to be pope. I am too old for that,” the Cardinal responded. Five years earlier, Card. Bergoglio had reportedly finished in second place in the Papal Conclave that elected Benedict XVI, who made a flurry of positive statements about Archb. Romero in 2007-2008, but then went silent about the cause, focusing his energy on Europe’s flagging Christian identity and various Church scandals.
Three short years later, Card. Bergoglio is Pope and Archbishop Romero’s beatification cause is on the move. Vatican watcher John Allen, Jr. published an analysis in 2011, which listed five factors that characterized beatification causes that progressed on the “fast track”—and Allen concluded that Romero’s cause was excluded from this list at the time. But if we run the analysis today, it seems clear that Romero now satisfies its criteria. Fast track causes, Allen analyzed, “have an organization behind them fully committed to the cause, with both the resources and the political savvy to move the ball.” Romero’s beatification is backed by the Sant’Egidio Community, a well-connected and ascendant Church movement, and its spiritual adviser—Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia—is the Postulator of the Cause. Second, “fast-track cases involve a ‘first,’ usually to recognize either a specific geographical region or an underrepresented constituency.” Romero would be the first saint from El Salvador, and the government of El Salvador is actively lobbying for his beatification.
Third, Allen said, fast track causes, involve “a political or cultural issue symbolized by these candidates that lends a perceived sense of urgency.” This is where the contrast between the cause today and what it was a few years ago is most apparent. As an icon of the ‘Church of the Poor,’ “Romero is the symbol of the Church that Pope Bergoglio wants to project to the geographical and existential peripheries,” Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo told «La Stampa.» Fourth, fast track causes tend to be ones in which “the sitting pope feels a personal investment.” According to Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, “there is an ‘idem sentire’ [‘an identity of thinking’] between the magisterium of Pope Bergoglio and the witness of faith offered by Romero to the point of making the ultimate sacrifice, which springs from a common origin in a Church such as a the Latin American Church, which has suffered and still suffers in order to maintain its fidelity to the message of Christ.” Fifth, Allen wrote, “fast-track cases generally enjoy overwhelming hierarchical support.” «La Stampa» noted that Romero’s figure is surging in the Vatican, noting the attention he now receives from Radio Vaticana and L’Osservatore Romano (which featured Romero this weekend on the cover of its women’s section—the first time a male had so been featured).
The President of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, reported that when he met with Pope Francis about Romero, the Pontiff did not indicate whether the beatification would be “in the next few days or in the next few months,” but he did say it would be “as soon as possible.” The aforementioned Mr. Allen told National Public Radio that it would now likely be “months, not years” until Romero’s beatification is formally announced by the Vatican. Julian Filochowski, of the Romero trust, speculated that, “Maybe 2014 will be Romero’s year—as Archbishop Paglia seems to anticipate.” Based on the public statements of Church officials, and on the patterns of activity of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (numbers of decrees issued and times of their announcement) for the past 8 years, as well as on the paths of numerous recent “fast track causes” (including Blessed Giuseppe Puglisi, whose martyrdom argument the Romero case will follow), Super Martyrio analyzes that a beatification announcement relating to Archbishop Romero is possible by December of this year. That would require the decrees to be prepared in six months—between the April 2013 announcement that the cause was “unblocked” and the October meeting of the CCS. That timing would be similar to what was achieved in the beatifications of Mother Teresa, Padre Pio and—most recently—Fr. Puglisi.
In a sense, the heavy lifting is done. A year ago, «La Stampa» was calling the Romero beatification a “lost cause.” Today, it is saying it is all but certain. For Óscar Romero of San Salvador, the resurrection has already come.