|San Salvador, March 22, 2015.|
Commemorations in El Salvador and elsewhere to mark the XXXV Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Archbishop Óscar A. Romero had a distinctly buoyant feel this year, given the news that Romero will be beatified in May.
In El Salvador, numerous commemorative events were held starting over the weekend. Since the March 24 anniversary fell during the week, the main commemoration in San Salvador was held on Saturday night. Thousands marched in a candlelit procession from the Divine Savior Monument in West San Salvador to the plaza in front of the San Salvador Cathedral. The current San Salvador Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar, celebrated Mass on a temporary altar on the Cathedral steps before a crowd that could not fit inside.
|Ciudad Barrios, March 24, 2015.|
Numerous memorial Masses were celebrated on the 24th, including a morning Mass celebrated by a visiting Nicaraguan bishop at the cancer hospital chapel where Romero was killed. That Mass was attended by the President of El Salvador and members of his cabinet. Bishop Rodrigo Orlando Cabrera Cuéllar celebrated a festive mass in Ciudad Barrios, Romero’s hometown, in a festival-like atmosphere. Visiting Mexican Bishop Raúl Vera said a small Mass in the Crypt where Romero is buried.
|San Salvador Cathedral, March 24, 2015.|
The main event on Tuesday was the Cathedral Mass officiated by visiting Panamanian Cardinal José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán, surrounded by an estimated hundred priests and seminarians, including the Archbishop, the Papal Nuncio and the Archbishop Emeritus, with a couple of thousand faithful in attendance. Also on the 24th, the Salvadoran Church announced that all the Cathedrals in the country would simultaneously peel their bells and their bishops would say Mass (the country is divided into eight dioceses).
At the Cathedral Mass, Cardinal Lacunza delighted the crowd, saying that the argument over Romero’s martyrdom was over. “Roma locuta, causa finita,” the prelate said, citing the Latin phrase which translates as ‘Rome has spoken, the debate is closed.’ He said that “Rome has spoken loud and clear: the Church has declared [Romero] a martyr, due to hatred of the faith ... Let that be clear,” he added, “Archbishop Romero was sacrilegiously killed in hatred of the faith.” He recited the winning argument of the recent beatification process, saying that “Archbishop Romero was neither a revolutionary, nor a political scientist, nor a sociologist: he was an evangelizer.” His sermon was often interrupted by applause. [Spanish audio of sermon.]
|Los Angeles, March 22, 2015.|
Similar messages were heard from high ranking clerics elsewhere in the past week. In Los Angeles, Archbishop José Gómez preached that Romero “showed us that the Church exists for only one reason — to carry on the mission of Jesus, his mission to evangelize and save the world. And that mission,” Gómez said, “means the Church must always be a voice for the voiceless, a defender of the small and weak; a force for love and truth, dignity and justice — serving the poor and showing God’s mercy to all who suffer.” [Full text.]
|London, March 21, 2015.|
In London, Cardinal Vincent Nichols preached a Saturday homily at St. Martin In The Fields near Trafalgar Square, stating that Romero died “in holiness of life and for one reason: hatred of the faith, hatred of Jesus, hatred of the unfailing love of God, shown in Jesus, which has such a special, preferential place for the poor.” He added that, “If we truly want to imitate Oscar Romero and truly follow his example, then we too, every day, must make the cries of the poor in every part of the world central to our prayer. This is the most radical action we can take, the most profound response we can make to poverty in our midst.” [Full text.]
Writing in an editorial, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput argued that “Part of Romero's power was his understanding that the church, by her nature, must be revolutionary in the truest sense: She seeks, and at her best actually lives, a revolution of Christian love.” He cited Romero’s words that the Church seeks “integral human salvation,” which seeks to save people “in their transcendent dimension and their historical dimension, in their spiritual dimension and their bodily dimension.” [Link.]
Chaput is Archbishop of the city that will host the 2015 World Meeting of Families, which will be attended by Pope Francis and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the President of the Pontifical Commission on the Family, and postulator of Archbishop Romero’s cause. Chaput announced that, “to commemorate Romero’s sacrifice,” the Hunger and Homelessness Committee of the World Meeting of Families would spend time this week “visi[ting] shelters, soup kitchens, food pantries, and health clinics, listening to stories and seeking to understand the personal and social dimensions of poverty.”
|Vatican, March 22, 2015.|
A similar approach was taken by Caritas-Rome, where a commemorative vigil led by Bishop Matteo Zuppi, and a Romero Mass celebrated by Archbishop Paglia were included as part of a Week of Charity, with activities targeting such groups as prisoners and AIDS patients. After Archbishop Paglia’s mass near the Vatican on Sunday, the faithful processed to St. Peter’s Square to join Pope Francis’ Angelus prayer. They carried, among other things, a wooden cross the Pontiff used in his visit to the island of Lampedusa, to honor immigrants who drowned trying to reach European shores. “I greet all the pilgrims present,” the Pope said, and he mentioned various delegations by name, including “the group named after the martyred Bishop Oscar Romero, who will soon be proclaimed Blessed.”