Friday, January 16, 2015

Romero beatification update #1

Nota bene: For those considering traveling to San Salvador for the Romero beatification, this blog will provide an update every Friday regarding plans for the ceremony, as well as for commemorations of Romero's anniversary in March and his birthday in August.  So, check back here for updates.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon visits the grave of Archbishop Romero on Friday, January 16, 2015.

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A week after the news that Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador had been recognized as a martyr by Vatican theologians, plans for Romero’s beatification later this year are still coalescing.

Despite a unanimous vote by the panel of theologians, their finding won’t be official until confirmed by a commission of cardinals and bishops and presented to the Pope for his expected approval.  Still, the official announcement could come early or mid-February if the cardinals decide the matter at their Feb. 3rd meeting.

Recognizing that beatification plans cannot be finalized until after the official word is given, Church officials are nonetheless scrambling to find a date for Romero’s beatification ceremony.  These efforts are complicated by two unusual factors: first, the prospect that Pope Francis will lead the ceremony; and, second, the possibility that the Pope will skip beatification and canonize Romero—making him a saint in one step, as opposed to the usual two part process.

This puts Romero’s beatification process, already marked by unusual deviations from the normal course, into the domain of the papal travel handlers.  To simply state it, the Pope’s travel schedule for the rest of year is still up in the air.  It contains two major immovable objects: the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, September 22-27, and the Synod of Bishops in Rome, October 4-25.  The multiple moving parts include contemplated trips to Washington, D.C. and New York, a possible trip to Mexico, and even speculation that the Pope may travel to the U.S. West Coast (unleashed by his announced intention to canonize Junipero Serra this year).

The Salvadoran Church is, understandably, eager to have the Pope come to beatify (and, preferably, canonize) Romero in El Salvador.  San Salvador Auxiliary Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chávez told the local press that some clarification may come in a meeting with Archbishop Léon Kalenga Badikebele next week.  Kalenga is the Nuncio, or Pope’s representative in El Salvador.  Bishop Rosa also said they will ask Kalenga to give the Pontiff assurances that the various sectors within El Salvador are united and working together to ensure the visit would proceed safely and smoothly.

If El Salvador and Rome cannot get together to make the papal trip happen, the beatification would presumably proceed under the usual arrangements, which is for the ceremony to take place in San Salvador, presided by Card. Angelo Amato, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.  With Card. Amato presiding, the planning would be significantly less complicated and beatification could take place earlier—perhaps, as early as over the Summer—or be timed to coincide with the annual Romero commemorations.

Summing up, it seems reasonably sure that Archbishop Romero will be at least beatified sometime between March and September.  We may get more clarification with an official announcement as early as February, but the entire picture will not be completely clear until Pope Francis decides to what degree he wishes to be personally involved, which he may do upon his return to Rome from Asia, where he is traveling this week.

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