BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO, MAY 23, 2015
Seven bishops, two government ministers and more than 500 Salvadorans residing in Italy were greeted by Pope Francis last week and they came away from the meeting with clear indications of a Pontiff who yearns to canonize Archbishop Romero and beatify Fr. Rutilio Grande, but is also very determined about how to go about it. Reporting on the meeting, the media have focused so exclusively on the perceived criticisms by Francis (a narrative that matches the image of Francis as a tireless reformer squaring off with ideological enemies) that they have overlooked the biggest warning he gave to the Salvadoran Church—which is not contained in his speech, either the one he prepared in advance or the improvised part.
The same Pope who “unblocked” the beatification of Archbishop Romero seems prepared to put the brakes on it, or at least impose reasonable conditions to ensure as his papal predecessors tried to do, that the beatification is opportune for Salvadoran society.
On the one hand, there is no doubt that Francis has deep admiration for Romero and Fr. Grande, and that he wants to drive their causes to their good conclusions. The affection and devotion of the Pope were in evidence during the audience—above all, in his speech, in which called Romero and Grande “a treasure and a founded hope” for the Church and for Salvadoran society. [TEXT.] He added that “the impact of their commitment is still perceived in our days. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, they were configured with Christ, as so many witnesses of the faith of all times.”
When the Salvadoran bishops presented to him a scapular with a piece of corporal containing Romero’s blood as a gift, the Pope was visibly moved and he kissed the reliquary that was presented to him (an unusual gesture, not seen with other sacred objects he has been given). More than anything, the admiration for Romero was evident in his speech in which he spoke passionately of Romero as “a man who continues to be martyr”, because he is still being slandered. “After giving his life, he continued to give it, letting himself be scourged by all those misunderstandings and calumnies. That gives me strength...”
When Francis received Msgr. Rafael Urrutia, Vice-postulator of Fr. Grande, he spoke unambiguously of his interest in advancing the cause: “Hurry up, Man ... Get on it ... As soon as possible”, were the phrases with which the Pope reiterated his haste, eliciting comments that roles had been reversed between Pontiff and postulator. Greeting Fr. Rodolfo Cardenal, biographer of Fr. Grande, Francis asked him if any miracles had been attributed to Fr. Grande. A bit puzzled at the moment, Cardenal said no (at this stage that seeks to establish Grande’s martyrdom, it is not pertinent to talk about miracles). The Pope graciously corrected him, saying that Archbishop Romero is Rutilio Grande’s miracle.
Despite his enthusiasm, Francis has given distinct guidelines that he wants to impose discipline and purpose on the process. There are two principles in this regard: first, there will be no waiver of the procedural requirements. I.e., it will be necessary to verify a miracle for Archbishop Romero (no “equipollent canonization”) and a recognition of the martyrdom of Fr. Grande by Vatican theologians. Secondly—and this is the most interesting—according to Msgr. Gregorio Rosa Chavez, Auxiliary Bishop of San Salvador, “The Pope needs to see a country that is making strides for reconciliation” and at the moment the “conditions” are not present, due to soaring homicide rates due to the gang problem. Obviously, the Church needs to ‘hurry up … get on it” and work on this problem ‘as soon as possible.’