“Let’s talk about Msgr. Romero,” Pope Francis told Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes when the two met in May (see item number 3 below). The papal directive could be used to describe the year Archbishop Óscar Romero had in 2013—it was a banner year. Talk about Archbishop Romero, we did—whether it was the Pope talking about Romero with numerous visitors to the Vatican, the friendly coverage in the official Vatican newspaper (item #9), or articles for (here and here) and against his beatification (here), the Pope’s invitation made Archbishop Romero a topic of discussion this year. And there was a lot to talk about! The following are the top ten Romero related stories we discussed this year.
1. Movement in Rome. The progress in Archbishop Romero’s canonization cause in 2013 came in three distinct movements. First, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the postulator of the cause, announced that Pope Francis had unblocked the cause. Later, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announced that it had issued a «nihil obstat,» removing any doctrinal barriers to the cause. Finally, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints confirmed that there were no obstacles remaining for the beatification to proceed. Pope Francis reportedly told numerous observers that the cause is on track.
2. Jorge Mario Bergoglio elected Pope. The elevation of the first Latin American to the See of Peter represented a tectonic shift for the Church, and no less so for the Romero cause. As explained by Italian Cardinals Achille Silvestrini and Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, Romero symbolizes “the Church that Pope Bergoglio wants to project to the geographical and existential peripheries” in this Pontificate and there is “an identity of thinking” between Archbishop Romero and the new Pope, who announced he would like to see the Catholic Church be “a poor Church for the poor.”
3. Pope Francis meets with President Funes. In an extraordinary development, the President of El Salvador met in the Vatican with the Pope and discussed the progress of the beatification cause. Pope Francis told Pres. Mauricio Funes that “we must have faith” that Romero will be beatified soon, and he heard words of gratitude from the President for unblocking the cause. Funes also told the Pontiff about Archbishop Romero’s importance in El Salvador and he presented the Pope with a reliquary containing a piece of Romero’s blood stained vestments the martyr bishop wore when he was killed.
4. Closure of Tutela Legal. The darkest cloud on the sunny Romero sky of 2013 was the surprising decision by the current Archbishop of San Salvador, Msgr. José Luis Escobar Alas, to close down the successor entity to the human rights office founded by Archbishop Romero. The Archdiocese’s commitment to human rights work was embodied by that office and its abrupt closure called into question whether war crime victims represented by the office would have standing to continue their lawsuits, whether the crucial documentation of war crimes kept by the office would be maintained, and whether Romero’s enormous contribution to human rights would be squandered.
5. Giant Romero painting at World Youth Day papal event. When Pope Francis went to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to lead the Catholic World Youth Day, he wanted to be sure to visit one of the city’s slums to show his closeness with the poor. When he got there, he found a giant poster of Archbishop Romero looming over the soccer field where the slum rally was held. The billboard was created by Salvadoran artists who had been trying to make a splash with it at World Youth Day since 2005. They did so this year.
6. St. George’s Southwark opens “Romero space”. On a late summer’s evening in September, more than 1,200 people, many of whom had made long journeys from around Britain to be present came to the Metropolitan Cathedral of St. George in Southwark (London) to inaugurate a space dedicated to Archbishop Romero and to bless a large “Romero Cross,” in the style pioneered by the Salvadoran muralist Fernando Llort, and created by the Salvadoran master in El Salvador. Ambassadors and High Commissioners, members of Parliament and other government officials, were present, as well as ecumenical representations of both the Catholic and Anglican faiths, and others, including Romero’s secretary and his younger brother who traveled from El Salvador to attend.
7. Romero statue at L.A.’s Macarthur Park. The Salvadoran community of Los Angeles inaugurated a statue of Archbishop Romero at the city’s Macarthur Park, located in a heavily Central American neighborhood, and both the mayor and the archbishop of Los Angeles were on hand for the unveiling. Archbishop José H. Gómez referred to Romero as a “great martyr” who “inspires all of us to build a better world, a world that promotes human dignity and the common good for the human family” more than thirty years after his death. Mayor Eric Garcetti told the crowd, “This is more than a monument of a man. This is a monument that salutes courage.” The statue was crafted in El Salvador and blessed at the Divine Providence Chapel where Romero was killed.
8. Cardinal Ortega at El Salvador’s Eucharistic Congress. The Archdiocese of San Salvador celebrated its centenary with a Jubilee Year, which it closed out with a Eucharistic Congress. Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega attended as the Pope’s representative. That he spoke in favor of Archbishop Romero’s canonization at the closing Mass was not surprising. He also visited and prayed at the cancer hospital where Romero lived, and visited his tomb underneath the Cathedral crypt. What was truly remarkable was that Romero was given a prominent spot during the Eucharistic Congress. Archbishop Romero always looked back to the last national Eucharistic Congress, held in 1942, and the social message from Pope Pius XII received for that Congress. That Romero himself would be the subject of the papal messenger at the second Eucharistic Congress shows how far he has advanced to be seen together with his nation's spiritual identity.
9. Friendly coverage in L’Osservatore Romano. As if an expansive quotation and write-up in the official Church newspaper were not enough, the feature on Archbishop Romero was also included in the women’s section—making him the first man to be so featured. The unmistakable import of the coverage was explained a member of the editorial staff who noted that Romero’s message was “close to [the words] often pronounced by Pope Francis in his daily homilies, in which he recalls with affection and admiration grandmothers and mothers who transmit life together with the faith to their children and grandchildren.”
10. 33rd anniversary observed. As of this year, Oscar Romero has been a martyr as long as Jesus Christ was alive and the anniversary of his death was marked by local and global commemorations. At the local level, major events were held in San Salvador, London and Rome. In the eternal city, Argentine Nobel laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel was the keynote speaker. He received an audience with Pope Francis ahead of his appearance at the event. Internationally, the Church marks March 24 as the Day of Prayer and Fasting for Missionary Martyrs and the U.N. as the International Day of the Right to Truth regarding serious violations of human rights.Finally, on this blog, we adopted «Romero for the Year of Faith» as our theme and expanded coverage to try to keep up with fast breaking canonization news. Notably, we implemented a three languages policy on Pentecost and have been posting in English, Spanish and Italian ever since, in an effort to make the blog’s content available to a large swath of the Catholic world. Other mileposts included new alliances, distribution and promotion efforts, and 100,000 page views. Look for new projects next year, including a problem we will be all too glad to have—life after beatification, for a beatification blog!
Prior Year Reports:
Top 10 of 2012
Top 10 of 2011
Top 10 of 2010
Top 10 of 2008
Top 10 of 2007
Roundup 2006 (Spanish)