Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Francis and Romero, companions


 
BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO, MAY 23, 2015
 

 


During his trip to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, Pope Francis has a traveling companion in Blessed Oscar A. Romero, the martyred archbishop of El Salvador. Many news stories about the trip have mentioned Romero's beatification this past May as one of the salient points of the Bergoglio pontificate and the papal visit’s emphasis on poverty and social inequality make Blessed Romero a point of reference for this visit.
Blessed Romero figured in the trip from the moment the pontiff first stepped onto Latin American soil when President Rafael Correa, in his speech welcoming Francis to Ecuador, said: “Thank God the Latin American Church has given us extraordinary pastors, such as Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, martyr of our America, recently beatified by you.”
Pope Francis himself framed Romero in a Latin American context when, in his expansive message for the beatification of the martyr, he spoke of a “day of celebration for the Salvadoran nation, and also for the beautiful Latin American countries.” He also said that the message of Archbishop Romero was a call to unity around peace and reconciliation with relevance to the entire continent. “It is to this that the Church in El Salvador, in America and in the entire world is called to today: to be rich in mercy, to become a leaven of reconciliation for society.”
If these statements did not put Romero at the forefront of the news, then the theological message of this trip would make Romero a reference for the apostolic visitation. Responding to the welcome message of the President of Ecuador, His Holiness paraphrased his hope for Latin America: “that the growth in progress and development already registered will be strengthened and ensure a better future for everyone, with particular concern for the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters who are the debt still outstanding in Latin America.” Days before leaving Rome, the Pope published his evangelizing intention for the month of July that would frame his journey: “That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.”
All this makes us think of one of the phrases with which Archbishop Romero was elevated to the altars: that he was an “Evangelizer and Father of the Poor.” In his homily at the Bicentennial Park in Quito on July 7, Francis expounded on the subject of evangelization, preaching that “Evangelization does not consist in proselytizing.” Instead of proselytizing, the Pope urged, “may you have the same feelings of Jesus. May each of you be a witness to a fraternal communion which shines forth in our world!  How beautiful it would be if all could admire how much we care for one another, how we encourage and help each other.”
He concluded: “This is what it means to evangelize; this is our revolution – because our faith is always revolutionary –, this is our deepest and most enduring cry.” The Pope's words seem to explain the phrase from the beatification of Archbishop Romero and the praxis of Blessed Romero seems to illustrate the preaching of the pope. By their mutual reference, the Holy Father and the Blessed Romero are fellow travelers in the evangelization of the continent.
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