Friday, October 30, 2015

Francis: Romero slandered in the Church


BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO, MAY 23, 2015



#BlessedRomero #MartyrOfMercy

What was already a banner year for Blessed Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, beatified in May and having had three miracles already primed his expected canonization, was capped with an astonishing “mea culpa” from Pope Francis, who admitted that members of the church have treated the martyred prelate unjustly.  The Pope’s impromptu remarks, departing from the prepared text he read to a delegation of Salvadorans thanking him for Romero’s beatification, took over the Pope’s original message of conventional praise for Romero and obscured the Salvadorans’ invitation to Pope Francis to visit El Salvador next year.  A translation of the Pope's prepared remarks is at the foot of this post. [FINAL TEXT]

After he finished reading his prepared text, Francis said: “I would like to add something that perhaps we gloss over in the martyrdom of Archbishop Romero, which was not limited to the time of his death; it was a martyrdom that continued after his death.” Romero's martyrdom “continued even by his brothers in the priesthood and in the episcopate,” the pope said, referring to criticism of Romero inside the church. “How often people who have given their lives or who have died are still stoned with the hardest stone in the world: the tongue,” said the Pontiff.  The pope had read the speech quietly, in a slight monotone and looked tired, but he livened up visibly when he spoke off-the-cuff. 
The audience began with a greeting from the current Archbishop of San Salvador, Msgr. José Luis Escobar Alas, who introduced the 500 participants, including “the majority of the episcopate.” Escobar said that on May 23, the pope wrote the most beautiful page in the history of the Church in El Salvador and in the history of the country itself. He expressed his feelings of joy and gratitude for having in Romero an intercessor and a model. He spoke of overcoming social injustice and social conflict due to Romero. He asked for the prompt canonization of Romero and the prompt beatification of Rutilio Grande. He “reiterated the invitation” to the pope to visit El Salvador, which would be “a great blessing” for the Salvadoran people and a great joy, while El Salvador is suffering so much violence and pain. He offered Francis “unconditional obedience.” Finally, he invoked the intercession of Romero to grace the successor of Peter and asked the Pope’s blessing for El Salvador.
We are grateful to the Holy Father, we come to thank him as the Salvadoran community,” said Msgr. Gregorio Rosa Chavez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador—one of the members of the delegation—to Vatican Radio. “In Romero, the world has an icon of what the Church dreams for pastors, a pastor of the flock who goes ahead, as the Pope says, between and behind the flock, a pastor who has the smell of the sheep and gives his life for his flock.” They gave the pope a Romero relic: a scapular and a piece of the corporal stained with Romero's blood.  Francis said Romero’s blood is mixed with “the blood of a great number of Christian martyrs whom even today is still dramatically shed in the field of the world with the certain hope that it will bear fruit in a rich harvest of holiness, justice, reconciliation and love of God.”

Reactions to Francis’ comments broke out along predictable patterns.  Newspapers in El Salvador reported that Francis had targeted the Salvadoran bishops, who, until recently, had been divided over Romero (one is said to have told John Paul II that Romero was responsible for civil war deaths, supposedly fomenting class conflicts by denouncing injustice).  The Associated Press appeared to view the remarks through the divisions of the recent Synod of Bishops, reporting that Francis had denounced clerical types who opposed Romero.  In reality, both views seemed to miss the mark.  Francis did not mean to isolate the Salvadoran bishops, because he reported to have personally heard unfair criticisms of Romero—in Argentina.  He also did not directly “denounce” or criticize anyone, pointing out that Romero was the object of ‘slander’ as an attribute of his martyrdom.  “It is beautiful to see him this way as well,” Francis said of Romero: “a man who continues to be a martyr.”
The Salvadoran delegation included seven bishops and, representing the government, the Foreign Minister, Hugo Martinez, and the Minister of Governance and Communications Hato Hasbún. They were also accompanied by hundreds of Salvadorans living in Italy, mostly in the northern city of Milan. The members of the delegation began lining up to enter the Vatican premises through the Bronze Gate in St. Peter’s Square at 9:00 am for the audience which began at noon in the Sala Regia (Regal Room) of the Apostolic Palace.
In his meeting with the pope, the Salvadorans bishops updated him on the status of the beatification cause of the Salvadoran Jesuit martyr Rutilio Grande. According to Msgr. Jesus Delgado Acevedo, who is close to the Romero canonization cause, “The Pope has conditioned, in a way, the canonization of Archbishop Romero” to the conclusion of the work on the cause of Grande so that he can personally beatify Grande and canonize Romero during a single trip to El Salvador. “He has told the bishops that the day they are prepared with the beatification of Father Rutilio Grande, on that occasion he would canonize Romero, provided there was a proven miracle by Archbishop Romero,” Delgado told a Salvadoran outlet before departing for Italy. The Salvadoran Church insists that three possible miracles by Romero have been already sent to Rome, but Delgado said he was unaware if they have been presented to the pope.
The Salvadorans proposed to the Pope to go to El Salvador to preside over the double ceremony for Romero and Grande during his upcoming trip to Mexico, confirmed by the Vatican for 2016. “I think, I assume, I am no prophet,” Delgado said, “that the Pope's visit would be next year, during his visit to Mexico, perhaps extending his visit to include Guatemala and El Salvador, it could be then that the Pope visits El Salvador to canonize Archbishop Romero.”
The Salvadoran bishops who participated in the audience included the Military Bishop Msgr. Fabio Colindres.; and the Bishops of: Chalatenango—Msgr. Luis Morao Andreazza; San Vicente—Msgr. José Elias Rauda Gutierrez; Sonsonate—Msgr. Constantino Barrera Morales; and Zacatecoluca—Msgr. Elías Samuel Bolaños Avelar, who coordinated the composition of delegation. The above-mentioned Msgr. Delgado also attended.  Before meeting with the Salvadorans, Pope Francis had separate meetings with representatives of CELAM, the Latin American Bishops’ Conference, and with Card. Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, among others.
Beyond the healings submitted to pave the way for the canonization of Romero, Bishop Rosa Chavez said that the Salvadoran pastors are hoping for two miracles in particular: locally, for a true reconciliation in the country and overcoming the violence and globally: that Blessed Romero may be an icon of what Pope Francis dreams as pastor, “a poor Church for the poor.”
The Apostolic Palace, site of the papal audience.
[POPE FRANCIS' PREPARED REMARKS]

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, authorities, priests, religious, seminarians, dear brothers and sisters.

With great joy I receive today your visit and in giving you the warmest welcome, I also express my affection for all the children of the beloved Salvadoran nation. I thank Archbishop José Luis Escobar, President of the Episcopal Conference, for his kind words. To all of you, thank you very much for your warm and enthusiastic presence.

You come to Rome in joy recognition of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero as a Blessed; he was a Good Shepherd, filled with the love of God and close to his brothers and sisters, living the dynamism of the Beatitudes, he went as far as to giving his life in a violent manner, while celebrating the Eucharist, the supreme sacrifice of love, sealing with his blood the Gospel he was announcing.

Since the beginning of the life of the Church, Christians, persuaded by the words of Christ, who reminds us that "unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone" (Jn 12:24), we have always had the conviction that the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians, in the words of Tertullian. The blood of many Christians martyrs that today too, dramatically, is still shed in the field of the world with the certain hope that it will bear fruit in a rich harvest of holiness, justice, reconciliation and love of God. But let us remember that one is not born a martyr. It is a grace that the Lord gives, and in a way it concerns all the baptized. Archbishop Romero recalled: "We must be willing to die for our faith, even if the Lord does not give us this honor ... Giving one's life means not only being killed; giving life, having a spirit of martyrdom, is giving in duty, in silence, in prayer, in the honest fulfillment of duty; in the silence of daily life; giving life slowly" (General Audience, January 7, 2015).

The martyr, in fact, is not someone who was relegated in the past, a beautiful image that adorns our churches and we remember with nostalgia. No, the martyr is a brother, a sister, who continues to accompany us in the mystery of the communion of saints, and who, united to Christ, does not ignore our earthly pilgrimage, our sufferings, our agonies. In the recent history of this beloved country, the testimony of Msgr. Romero, has joined the other brothers and sisters, such as Father Rutilio Grande, who, not afraid of losing their life, have won it and have been made intercessors for their people before the Living One, who lives for ever and ever, and has in his hands the keys of death and the abyss (Rev 1:18). All these brothers are a treasure and grounded hope for the Salvadoran Church and for society. The impact of their surrender is still felt today. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, they were configured to Christ, as many witnesses to the faith of all time.

Dear Salvadoran friends, a few weeks from starting the special Jubilee of Mercy, the example of Archbishop Romero for his beloved nation is a stimulus for a renewed proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, announcing it so that all people know it, so that the merciful love of the Divine Savior invades the heart and history of His good people. The holy people of God on pilgrimage in El Salvador still face a series of difficult tasks, still need, like the rest of the world, the evangelizing announcement that allows it to witness, in the communion of the one Church of Christ, the authentic Christian life, that will help to advance the promotion and development of a nation in search of true justice, genuine peace and reconciliation of hearts.

At this time, with so much affection for each of you here present and to all Salvadorans I make mine the sentiments of Blessed Archbishop Romero, who had the full hope to see the arrival of the happy time when the terrible tragedy the suffering of so many of our brothers because of hatred, violence and injustice would disappear from El Salvador. May the Lord, with a shower of mercy and goodness, with a torrent of grace, convert all hearts and the beautiful country that has given you, and bears the name of the Divine Savior, that it become a country where everyone feels redeemed and as brothers, with no difference, because we are all one in Christ our Lord (cf. Mons. Oscar Romero, homily in Aguilares, June 19, 1977).

Through the intercession of Our Lady of Peace, whose feast we celebrated a few days ago, I invoke God's blessing upon you and all the beloved sons and daughters of this blessed land.

Thank you.
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