When these clerics, indigents and heads of state gather around the Divine Savior Monument at 10 a.m. on the appointed date, they will witness a highly ordered ritual. At first glance, a beatification looks like normal Mass liturgy. However, Vatican officials directing the Mass will insert a beatification ritual at the beginning of the Mass, whereby the man who is the focus of the rite will go from Óscar Romero to “Blessed Óscar Romero.”
Called the Beatification Formula, the momentous text will be recited following the penitential rite or Confiteor, very shortly after the start of the Mass. Postulator Vincenzo Paglia will read a biography of Romero. Then, San Salvador Archbishop José Luis Escobar will approach the officiant, Cardinal Angelo Amato. The petitioner will then intone the following text, in Latin:
Eminentíssime Dómine, Archiepiscopi Sancti Salvatoris in America humíllime a Sanctitáte Sua Papa Francísco petit ut Venerábilem Servum Dei Ansgarii Arnolfi Romero, epíscopum, número ad scríbere Beatórum benigníssime dignétur.
By this text, the Archbishop of San Salvador petitions Pope Francis to inscribe Archbishop Oscar Romero—referred to by his Latinized name—in the book of the Blesseds. Then, Cardinal Amato will pronounce the Beatification Formula. This is the reply of Pope Francis to the foregoing petition. We cannot say exactly how that formula will read, because it is especially drafted for the occasion. However, it will also be in Latin, and will say that Pope Francis, giving assent to the petition, and having received the advice of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, exercising his Apostolic Authority, concedes that from that moment Romero may be called “Blessed.” He will also establish the date his Feast Day will be celebrated.
A large portrait of Romero with the diffuse halo of a Blessed, covered by a white veil until this moment, will be unveiled, likely to rapturous applause. The normal order of the Mass would then resume, with the “Blessed Óscar Romero” watching over the faithful. Another poignant moment will come when a reliquary containing relics of Romero will be placed on the altar. We will see whether the Salvadoran Church displays the viscera of Romero that were unearthed still pink and moist and apparently uncorrupted years after his death. Or perhaps the ornate reliquary that President Funes presented Pope Francis (seen at the top of this blog) will be used.
Beatifications are impressive spectacles, and they are intended to be that way. As Postulator Paglia states it, “Archbishop Romero does not need canonization; it is for our sake.”
* The region has had a single event relating to the Church’s saint-making function—the canonization of St. Peter Betacur in Guatemala in 2002.