Monday, January 19, 2015

Five petitions in Romero case




The expected beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero will be a great blessing for the entire Church.  The following five petitions are, humbly and respectfully, proposed as the efficient means to augment the bounty of that blessing.  [Even though the remarks Pope Francis made in his press conference today make some of the proposals here appear unlikely, I still think they make sense and should be presented.]

I.          The Decree

The decree from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints should explicitly state that Archbishop Romero’s denunciations were inspired in the Gospel.  This would make clear that Romero is not a martyr simply because the location of Romero’s death was within a Church, but because the motive for his killing was against the content of his preaching.  In turn, this would help proclaim that the concern for justice reflected in Romero's social criticisms is at the heart of the Gospel.

II.         The Canonization

Archbishop Romero should be declared a saint by equipollent canonization.  Pope Francis has stated that he intends canonize certain individuals by an expedited process to highlight great evangelizers.  Pope Benedict has said that after the Gospel was brought to El Salvador by the first missionaries, it was “preached fervently by Pastors full of love for God such as Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero.”  Additionally, Romero’s holiness is recognized by Christians of other denominations, such as the Anglican Church.  Finally, there is a precedent for a direct canonization of a martyr like Romero in the canonization of St. Thomas Becket, the last archbishop felled at the altar before Romero.

III.        The Ceremony

The canonization should be led by Pope Francis in El Salvador.  Let’s state the reason explicitly: the humble poor for whom Romero gave his life will not be able to travel to Rome in droves for a canonization ceremony, or to see the Pope confirm their saint.  Their only chance to witness such a powerful moment is if Pope Francis goes to El Salvador to lead the ceremony.  Moreover, as the first Pope from Latin America, Francis should personally canonize this important Latin American saint.  Additionally, going to El Salvador would be in line with Francis’ desire to promote reconciliation through his papal travel (e.g., Korea, Albania, Sri Lanka).

IV.        The Feast Day

Archbishop Romero’s Feast Day should be on March 24th.  This is the date Archbishop Romero was martyred.  For that reason, it is the date the Church observes the World Day of Prayer and Fasting for Missionary Martyrs; it is the date Archbishop Romero is commemorated in the Church of England's liturgical calendar; and the date the United Nations observes the International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims.  It is already his feast day.

V.         Further Proceedings

The church should open an exploratory process to consider whether to declare Archbishop Romero a Doctor of the Church.  Pope Francis has quoted Archbishop Romero’s words and Archbishop Romero’s sermons have been published in multiple languages and studied in books and seminars.  Of the thirty-five existing Doctors of the Church, none of them are from the New World or the global south.  Additionally, the Church should open canonization processes for the other martyrs of the Salvadoran Church who, like Romero, died for the Gospel.

By these five steps, we would be assured that the beatification/canonization of Archbishop Romero would live up to its full potential and allow the Church to fully reap its benefits.
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