BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO, MAY 23, 2015
#BlessedRomero #MartyrOfMercyArchbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas did not want the beatification of Archbishop Romero to become a scene of carnage like his 1980 funeral, in which 44 worshipers were killed in disturbances and the stampede they triggered. “It is true that we organizers were very concerned about the safety of the people who would massively attend the event because unfortunately we were living a situation of great social violence,” the Archbishop of San Salvador admits to Super Martyrio. “However I must say that the whole celebration took place in the best way possible, with so much respect, in a spirit of cooperation, with great humility and, above all, with much faith.”
|Archbishop Escobar at the beatification.|
The theater of action was vast—the spaces and streets impacted covered an area the size of Central Park in New York City. Early Saturday morning, navigating the surrounding areas was something like driving through the Gaza Strip—drivers had to turn over their licenses to enter the area. The approaches to Divine Savior Square were an organized chaos, with various lines to walk through checkpoints to enter the area. Busloads of uniformed students, groups of nuns, Boy Scouts, and the sound of foreign languages, joined the bustling excitement that day.
Emerson Didier Paez Martinez spent the night in Divine Savior Square with 90 young people and some parents from the San Francisco Catholic Educational Complex. They had arrived at four o'clock Friday afternoon, and endured the torrential rain, overnight frost, hunger and thirst, so that dawn would find them in a privileged position near the enclosed temporary altar for the beatification. They were nearly evicted from their posts in the first row behind the special guests, to permit VIP entrances to “Ground Zero”, but an old nun intervened on their behalf. “I just thought Archbishop Romero had sent an angel to advocate for us, at the start of the solemn ceremony,” Emerson muses.
When the priests began their procession from San José de la Montaña Seminary to the temporary altar, the world realized the magnitude of the ceremony. The clergy’s march lasted half an hour to introduce some 1,300 priests, 100 bishops and six cardinals to the temporary altar erected in the square. So great was the number of con-celebrants that at some point there was a traffic jam in the procession to the altar and the prelates, including the principal celebrant, Cardinal Amato, had to stand in place on the ramp that led to the altar waiting for the blockage to ease. The choir had to repeat the songs to give additional time for the procession. [The Music.] All this did not dampen the spirits of Cardinal Amato, who smiled and blessed, clearly buoyed by the festive ambiance (comparing his mood here to other beatifications will dramatize his exuberance).
|Three presidents: Juan Carlos Varela (Panama), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), Juan Orlando Hernández (Honduras).|
Paulita Pike was in front of the telephone company tower. “I looked around and we were one people,” she recalls. “There seemed to be no protocol or official nametags or badges of the Church, nor finery, nor heels nor ties, nor reserved seats, nor diadems handed out.” The army, police and security professionals were unnecessary, Pike argues. “Better they had gone on vacation that day because they drew their salaries to have fun. Fear had gone elsewhere.”Applause would break out with every mention of Archbishop Romero, including minor ones and unexpected ones, such as the inclusion of the new Blessed among the saints mentioned in the Eucharistic prayer. The enthusiasm was sometimes startling; fireworks burst during Mass, including at the reading of the gospel. Equally euphoric were the cheers that went up during the ceremony, especially those in favor of the pope.
The entire liturgy—its songs, readings and orations—can be summed up in the tragico-triumphant tone of its responsorial psalm: “Those who sowed in tears shall reap rejoicing.” [Summary - Compendium - Trivia.]
The climax came at 10:26 am local time, when Cardinal Amato said the name of Archbishop Romero in Latin, “Ansgarius Arnolfus Romero Galdamez” followed by the formula “episcopus et martyr ... beati nomine in posterum appelletur,” from which moment on, the son of Santos and Guadalupe, “the boy of the flute”, became the first Salvadoran beatified.
Julian Filochowski, President of the Romero Trust, traveled from London and was sitting with some Irish nuns behind the ranks of the clergy. “My overall feeling was of unbounded elation,” recalls Filochowski, who got Romero nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. “And yet, all that was mixed with a strange sense of emptiness in the gut”—he remembers—“it was exactly the same feeling I had when Nelson Mandela was freed from 27 years of incarceration” in 1990. “Blessed Oscar Romero now truly belonged to the whole universal Church and not simply to us, that small fellowship of true believers, who had doggedly pursued the struggle for martyrdom recognition.”
Emerson Paez, the coordinator of the youth group from the San Francisco parish, shed tears. “I felt it was the victory of the just, the poor, of the humble, the marginalized, the voiceless; Archbishop Romero represented us all and what the people had been saying, Archbishop Romero a Saint, the church was now only confirming.”
|The youth group from the San Francisco parish.|
Sandra Judith Zuleta Cornejo was on the other side of the altar, following the ceremony on a giant screen. “I feel I acted like a nonbeliever, but in my mind I thought why not give us a sign?,” recalls the teacher from the Fr. Richard Mangini Catholic Institute, “like the apparitions in Fatima, so that those who had the privilege of being special guests despite having been the biggest opponents will blush with shame and recognize, just like those Roman soldiers at the foot of the cross recognized Jesus as the son of God, that Archbishop Romero is a saint.”
Then, the teacher Zuleta and thousands of people looked skyward. Everyone saw and recorded a singular phenomenon. “My enduring memory is the rainbow, the solar halo which is the technical term,” says Julian Filochowski. “It appeared round the sun at the moment that the decree of beatification was read out and lasted for about 45 minutes.”
Jorge Bustamante, director of Grupo Radio Stereo, was near the special guest entrance. “I remember the sea of umbrellas that then disappeared to admire the solar halo,” Bustamante says a year later.
Archbishop Escobar did not see the halo until after the ceremony. “I must say that we bishops who accompanied the presiding Cardinal of the ceremony did not have the opportunity to see that sign from heaven, because the roof of the stage hindered us completely,” recalls the Archbishop. “We have seen it later in photographs and videos that were made,” said the prelate.
For Julian Filochowski, although the phenomenon was not a miracle in the strict sense of the word, it was a sign. “For me what came to mind was the scriptural description of Jesus being baptized in the Jordan and the voice from heaven: ‘This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased’. It was not a miracle but it was a sign!”
The Archbishop agrees on that point: “It is truly great and very significant, I think that in this way God put his signature on such an extraordinary event that brought joy to heaven and earth”, he reflects. “I had never seen a solar halo in my life, and I understand that in this country it does not happen, but for God nothing is impossible,” says the archbishop. “He has wanted to make the world see that there is a shining star in heaven, which is always enlightening the people of God with his doctrine, his spirit and his intercession—our Archbishop Oscar Romero.”
Herberth Huberto Hernandez Hernandez, another San Francisco student, agrees: “Romero means a light that is still alive and increasingly grows to reach the many hearts that need it.”
[More: A beatification at Pentecost]
[More: A beatification at Pentecost]