The news that Pope Francis has “unblocked” the canonization of Archbishop Óscar A. Romero has been analyzed by numerous commentators. Here is what some leading voices are saying.
Pat Marrin, of the National Catholic Reporter, described the overall significance of the news:
[U]nder a new pope, the shocking nature of Romero’s death and the stunning implications of his example have made his canonization even more relevant for the universal church. What the bishops at Medellín 45 years ago called the “institutionalized violence” of poverty remains the fate of billions of people in the world, and this continues to pose the question Francis is now echoing: “Does the church walk with the poor?”
Bill Blair, of the Republican American, echoed the sentiment that canonizing Romero would fit with Pope Francis’ apparent objectives.
[T]his newly minted Latin American pope would do well on many levels to shepherd the archbishop’s path to beatification and eventual sainthood. On a personal level, Francis would benefit from his advocacy of Romero because it would help to silence those critics who have claimed Francis remained publicly silent during Argentina’s “dirty war” from 1976 to 1983.
Jorge Costadoat, S.J., acknowledged the conflicting motives behind “blocking” and “unblocking” the canonization cause.
Archbishop Romero has been the most controversial figure in the Latin American Church. Perhaps having “blocked” the progress of the Romero process has been a well-intentioned act. Why not? Prudence could have urged previous Popes, or some Vatican prefect, that to exalt the figure of this martyr would have caused major upheavals between the Church and Latin American governments, and within the Church. What does Pope Francis seek to gain by rehabilitating a divisive man? To unblock the Romero cause is a divisive act. As blocking it has been. We have to believe in either case, there has been no ill will. Nobody forces us to think ill. But we should recognize that conflict is a historical reality. And, ultimately, what matters is who you are with, and what you fight against.
The activist priest Plazido Erdozain focused on perceived intrigues within the Church.
Ever since they named this pope, there have been some signs of positive change, but I have always believed that actions speak louder than words. Well, to reopen the Romero process is an important signal. It had been blocked, even though the Salvadoran Church has sought to revise his life in order to make it palatable to the Vatican. The Salvadoran Church put Msgr. Delgado (Jesus Delgado) in charge of his canonization cause. He is convinced that we, the Christian base communities, are the enemies of Archbishop Romero. Personally, I do not care whether or not canonize him. A [popular song] says the way to make Monseñor a saint is by following his path. I don’t very much like the idea of making saints in order to file them away, but it is a good sign of change ... It is a break with the scheme they had with the two previous popes, and in even the Salvadoran Church, because, they promoted making him a saint, but all they have written about Archbishop Romero is just to spiritualize him; but not in the true sense—imbuing him with the spirit of Christ—but relegating him to a spiritualist.
Julian Filochowski, of the Romero Trust in the UK, sought to reconcile the opposing views.
[Romero] was absolutely orthodox and absolutely radical ... Romero was a deeply spiritual man with a rich life of prayer. His example for us is the beautiful and transparent synthesis he achieved, by living and witnessing to the faith and promoting peace with justice.
Jon Sobrino, S.J., of the Central American University in San Salvador, hoped the canonization would harmonize the contradictions, rather than impose the official view.
We do not know what will be written in the Vatican decrees for beatification and canonization. We would like it if, in addition to Rome’s universal gloss, the decree also includes the important things about Monseñor that we see from here. Hopefully, it will present Archbishop Romero, the traditional saint and the Salvadoran saint, as we have tried to describe him.
Columnist David Gibson proposed one way to diffuse the apparent tensions.
Pairing the canonizations of John Paul and Romero is a scenario that would raise eyebrows, but the idea is not unprecedented in the politics of saint-making. Pairing the canonizations of the patron saint of liberation theology with the pope who tried to suppress it would be unconventional—but perhaps not for Francis, who already has proven himself to be the most unconventional of popes with a set of priorities all his own.
We will continue to monitor this discussion, but, at this juncture, the commentary suggests that the disagreement about whether or not to canonize Archbishop Romero has as much to do with internecine Church debates, as with Archbishop Romero himself.