In two separate events this week, when the Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, in two different countries—Italy and England—Archbishop Oscar Romero is honored in relation to the Holy Cross. First, Romero’s example was cited in a celebration at the Abbey of Nonantola, Italy, where tradition holds that a fragment of the True Cross is kept, when Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the postulator of Romero’s canonization cause celebrated Mass there to mark the feast. The «Gazzetta di Modena» covered the news:
Yesterday at Nonantola there were celebrations for the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a religious appointment repeated every September 14, that attracts hundreds of the faithful to admire the most important relic of the entire abbey: a piece of wood, wrapped in a thin gold foil, which holds a great religious value for everyone.
It is believed that it is in fact one of three pieces of the Cross on which Jesus was crucified, divided by St. Helena three ways: one for Jerusalem, one for Constantinople and the other one for Rome. The piece originally sent to Constantinople was sent to Nonantola as a gift.
This year, the exaltation of the Holy Cross is even more meaningful: 2013 marks 1700 years since the edict of Constantine.
Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family in Rome, who was in Modena to participate in the Festival of Philosophy, did not want to miss yesterday’s commemoration in Nonantola.
“The Cross of Jesus has gone from being an instrument of torture to one of salvation. We all wear one,” Paglia said in his homily, holding up the Cross he wears around his neck, which formerly belonged to another bishop, Msgr. Oscar Romero, murdered in El Salvador in 1980.
“Msgr. Romero—said the archbishop—was killed at the altar because he defended the poor. Those who knew the danger he was in would tell him, ‘come to Rome, you will be safe,’ but he saw the campesinos being killed and abused and he responded, ‘the shepherd does not abandon his sheep—especially when they are exploited,’ and on March 24 a shot came from the back of the church and he slumped at the altar. Today, we are all called to be martyrs, and if we understood that we need to think less of ourselves, it would be heaven on earth, because hell is being alone.”
Later this week, on Thursday the 19th, an ecumenical prayer service at St. George’s Cathedral in London will mark the dedication of a Romero Cross (photo), led by Archbishop Peter Smith and other Catholic and Anglican dignitaries. [Report from Vatican Radio.] [Story from Independent Catholic News.] The special guest of honor will be Msgr. Ricardo Urioste, who was Archbishop Romero’s vicar and who today is President of the Romero Foundation in El Salvador. The artist who created the Romero Cross is the leading Salvadoran muralist Fernando Llort, the same artist who created the mosaic that had formerly adorned the façade of the Cathedral in San Salvador. [Details.]