Sunday, May 29, 2016

Romero’s Cross


#BlessedRomero #MartyrOfMercy
In a letter to Pope Francis written days before his death, the Italian radical leader Marco Pannella confessed to the pontiff, “I have taken in my hands the cross that Archbishop Romero wore and I cannot quite let go of it.” Pannella, a nonbeliever, had borrowed the pectoral cross of the Salvadoran Blessed from Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, postulator of Romero’s cause, and felt a strong attraction to the relic that made it difficult to return it. Archbishop Paglia confessed he felt bad about having to insist on its return, as the relic seemed to arouse a spiritual hunger in his atheist friend who was dying of cancer.

The episode illustrates the appeal that the figure of Romero presents to conscientious atheists, as Archbishop Romero took up precisely that challenge, of attracting intellectually curious nonbelievers to the faith. “It is not enough to say: I am an atheist; I do not believe in God; I do not offend God”, Blessed Romero said in his famous last Sunday homily. “It is not a question of whether you believe or not, but a question of whether you have broken your relationship with the source of all life.  If you do not discover this God, and follow God and love God then you are disconnected from your origin,” Romero said, foreseeing the longing for the Absolute by someone like Pannella. Romero’s Cross is a totem of that thirst for the Transcendent in those who work for justice.
Archbishop Paglia obtained the cross from Msgr. Ricardo Urioste, Romero’s vicar, after being appointed postulator. The martyr’s friend said, “This is the cross of Archbishop Romero. I give it to you so that it may accompany you and help you in the work of the Cause because it will be a difficult cause and you will have to overcome many obstacles.” It is one of several crosses associated with Romero, the most precious of three pectoral crosses used by the martyred archbishop during his years as archbishop. Contrary to what some have written, it is not the cross that Romero was wearing at the time of his martyrdom; in fact, it is a cross Romero very seldom used, perhaps because of his personal austerity.
Blessed Romero’s pectoral crosses.  The one on the right, a simple “IHS” cross, was the one he wore most often.  It was buried with him.
It is a pontifical cross (one made for a bishop), known as “St. Chad’s Cross,” which combines elements of the “Jerusalem Cross” (or “Crusader’s Cross”) and the Quadrate Cross. All of the symbolism of this cross points to evangelization, to the urgency of bringing the message of Christ to the four corners of the earth.
According to the vesting prayers, the pectoral cross is also linked to the disposition for martyrdom. «Munire digneris me, Domine Jesu Christe,» prays the ancient rite: “Deign Thou, Lord Jesus Christ, to guard me, from all the snares of every enemy, by the sign of Thy most holy Cross: and deign Thou to grant to me, Thy unworthy servant, that as I hold before my breast this Cross ... so may I ever keep in mind the memory of the Passion, and the victories of the Holy Martyrs.”
Now this Romero Cross becomes a potent symbol of the evangelizing power of his own martyrdom.

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