BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO, MAY 23, 2015
Msgr. Ricardo Urioste, who served as vicar general of the Archdiocese of San Salvador under Blessed Archbishop Oscar Romero and later as founding president of the Romero Foundation in San Salvador, has passed away. He was 90 years old. Msgr. Urioste suffered a fall on New Year’s Eve, which may have been caused by a stroke. He never regained consciousness and while surgery to reduce brain swelling seemed to momentarily stabilize him, his condition soon began to deteriorate until he passed away at 12:20 a.m. on Friday, January 15, 2016 in a San Salvador hospital.
He was born Ricardo Urioste Bustamante on September 18, 1925 in San Salvador. Msgr. Urioste was the youngest of three children of the marriage formed by Amada and Adrian, an employee of the International Railways of Central America, the company that operated the railroad in El Salvador at the beginning of the previous century. He was ordained a priest on July 18, 1948 at age 22, after studying at the San Jose de la Montana seminary in San Salvador.
Urioste was by no means a political priest or agitator, and was considered a decent and holy man in the archdiocese. His first contact with Oscar Romero was in 1950, while Urioste was studying canon law in Rome. Father Romero wrote him from El Salvador, asking for an article on Pope Pius XII’s promulgation of the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Upon returning from Rome in 1957, Urioste was assigned to the San Francisco parish in San Salvador. He first met Oscar Romero in person in 1968, when Romero confronted Urioste regarding a speech Urioste had given on the social doctrine of Pope Paul VI, which Urioste interpreted as a “correction” from the by-the-book Romero. In 1977, when Romero was named archbishop, he called Urioste to be his vicar general.
Msgr. Urioste will be remembered mostly for his work after Romero’s March 1980 assassination to vindicate his martyred pastor. That work began in earnest on the evening of the murder, when Urioste gave an impassioned statement to the press in the very chapel where Romero had been gunned down an hour or so earlier. “Our first thought,” Urioste said, “is a thought of giving thanks to the Lord for having given us an archbishop of such great worth. For letting us have him for three years.” Recalling Romero’s commitment to peace, prayerful spirituality and the esteem his flock had for him, Urioste said, “This is the saddest death that has occurred in the country.”
Under Urioste’s leadership, the Romero Foundation kept Romero’s memory alive, even at times when officialdom discouraged devotion to Romero and even the Salvadoran Church appeared to be disinterested. The Foundation set up websites containing Romero’s homilies and writings, and coordinated the yearly commemorations of Romero’s March martyrdom. It was in service of this mission that Urioste traveled to London in September 2013, to speak at the unveiling of a “Romero Space” at St. George's Cathedral, in which he shared some of his memories of Romero. He told listeners that after observing Romero at prayer at St. Peter’s Tomb at the Vatican, he thought to himself, “One must follow this man because he is following God.”
When Romero was beatified in May of last year, Urioste declared it “the triumph of the truth.” Urioste explained that in beatifying Romero, the Vatican had analyzed every accusation against him and every distortion of his message, and rejected them. [See Urioste speak about Romero, in English in this CNS video.]
It was, in the end, also a great vindication of Msgr. Urioste and the flowering of all his work for the past 35 years.