A friend of the Blog sent me a note asking simply, “Will 2014 be the year?” The odds that Archbishop Óscar A. Romero of El Salvador will be beatified are greater in 2014 than they have been in nearly a decade, so if I were a betting man, I would answer “Yes.” But, we’ve had close calls before and it’s a complicated year in a period of shifting sands for the Church, so let’s look at some considerations.
First of all, from a standpoint of new saints, the entire year is already dominated by the scheduled canonization “double header” in April, when Popes John XXIII and John Paul II will be canonized together on Divine Mercy Sunday—the Sunday after Easter Sunday, on April 27, in Rome. They will be among only three popes of modern times to be canonized, and the occasion is expected to draw massive crowds to Rome, as the ceremony will be presided over by the über-popular Pope Francis, with an outside chance that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI may attend. The mind boggles at the enormity of that event.
Secondly, the man in charge of pushing Archbishop Romero’s cause, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, will have a very busy year as well. Archbishop Paglia is the president of the Pontifical Council on the Family, a cabinet level Vatican department, to put it in civil governance terms. In addition to the day-to-day running of this department of the global Church, Paglia is coordinating a Valentine’s Day audience with Pope Francis and engaged couples, designed to highlight families and traditional marriages. More daunting still, there will be a Synod of Bishops in Rome in October, which will focus on the family and, as such, Paglia is expected to have many responsibilities in relation to that conference. These could include developing its texts and agendas, as well as trying to broker consensus for particular outcomes he and Pope Francis may desire to come out of the Synod (including the integration of input from a worldwide survey sent out ahead of the meeting to deal with such issues as sacraments for the divorced).
Third, Pope Francis himself will have a busy year. In addition to his ongoing efforts to reform the Church and, generally, being Pope (weekly General Audiences and Angelus recitations, daily and holiday masses, private audiences with church and political leaders, appointing bishops, publishing encyclicals, etc.), Francis will be creating new cardinals in February and making a trip to the Holy Land in May.
Fourth, El Salvador is having presidential elections this year. Given the repeated concerns about keeping Archbishop Romero’s possible canonization from becoming entangled in political considerations, I’d look for the Church to try to steer clear of the election. That puts us through March 9, when a second round or run-off election (which is expected) would be held, which would determine the final outcome.
Fifth, and finally, although I do not mean to project any “line in the sand,” I propose April 20 (Easter Sunday) as a useful barometer. That is one year since Pope Francis ordained in 2013 that the Romero cause should be “unblocked” and one week before the big canonizations. It seems like a both fair and natural gauge for Vatican watchers to size up progress in Archbishop Romero’s beatification.
We may get some inkling of how the foregoing factors will shake out from a speech on Monday, January 13 by Cardinal Angelo Amato, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (Update: Report). The CCS is the principal Church authority for recognizing new saints and Card. Amato gives the opening address at an annual CCS training seminar, during which he sometimes lays out the CCS’ priorities and themes for the year. The speech is not a State of the Union Address, nor does it go into detail about particular causes. However, it can identify concerns or issues of interest to the Church in beatifications. But based on what we know today, I would look to March-April as the prospective target/window for the next stage of action.2014 could indeed be the year.
Prior Year Reports:
Beatification Outlook 2013 (Spanish)
Beatification Outlook 2012 (Spanish)
Beatification Outlook 2011
Beatification Outlook 2008 (Spanish)
Beatification Outlook 2007
Beatification Outlook 2006