JUBILEE YEAR for the CENTENNIAL of BLESSED ROMERO, 2016 — 2017
|Salvadoran bishops with Card. Ezzati.|
During the 1982 anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar A. Romero, a slogan emerged which would resonate in many future commemorations of the martyr bishop: “We want more bishops like Archbishop Romero.” It was a popular veto of sorts against an episcopate perceived as too far removed from the style now promoted by Pope Francis: of “shepherds with the odor of sheep”—or, as the slogan put it, “who align themselves with the poor.” Quite a long time has passed since those days, and now many bishops seem to want to take up the style of the former Archbishop of San Salvador. We examine the praise that twelve of them gave to the martyred archbishop during the recent commemorations of the centenary of his birth.
First, the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, issued a letter for the centenary of the birth of Archbishop Romero, in which he prays: “One hundred years have passed since the birth of Blessed Oscar Arnulfo Romero, bishop and martyr, illustrious pastor and witness of the Gospel, determined defender of the Church and the dignity of man. Son of the beloved land of El Salvador, he spoke to the people of our time about the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ and his love for all, especially the poor and marginalized. In his priestly life as well as in the beginning of his episcopal ministry he experienced a unique spiritual path that led him to foster justice, reconciliation and peace.”
Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, Archbishop of Santiago de Chile and personal representative of the pope in the commemorations, added: “I dare say that Blessed Archbishop Romero is a martyr of Hope. He is this for the poorest of the Continent; he is this for our beloved Church; he is this for those who struggle for justice, reconciliation and peace—who, with renewed fondness, already call him ‘Saint Romero of the Americas’.”
For his part, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop Vienna, said that Archbishop Romero “belongs to these great figures who, without power and without weapons, have changed the world solely through their witness.”
The Archbishop of Bologna, Italy, Msgr. Matteo Zuppi, wrote in a letter that Romero's centenary “is an important opportunity to thank God for his testimony and to choose, based on his example, a renewed and passionate commitment to peace ... His cherished memory encourages us and confirms us in the commitment to the Peace of Christ.”
Archbishop Giovanni Ricchiuti, president of Pax Christi of Italy, highlighted that Romero was a “courageous witness of the Gospel for Justice and Peace ... The spiritual heritage and the current relevance of the witness of Archbishop Romero spur the world community's commitment to building peace based on justice and peoples' rights.”
Others have tried to dissect the inspiration that motivated the martyr. In a mass for the centennial of Romero and the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin, the Archbishop of San Antonio, Texas, Gustavo Garcia-Siller commented that “as we celebrate also the 100th birthday of Blessed Oscar Romero, late Archbishop of San Salvador, we celebrate the life of someone who followed this example of Mary.”
The Archbishop of Los Angeles, California, Jose Gomez, emphasized the need to advocate for the common good of the people as Romero did: “In Blessed Oscar’s name, let’s keep working — to build a better Los Angeles, a better America, and a better world ... Let’s keep pressing for immigration reform — to keep our families together, to give rights to our workers, and to open the way to make new citizens for this great land of ours.”
Romero’s friend, Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez of San Salvador, wished to recall other martyrs of El Salvador: “It is easy for us to apply this term when we speak of Archbishop Romero, of the murdered priests and of the four American women — three Religious and a secular missionary — whose lives were snatched in December 1980. However we have a debt that we must begin to pay as soon as possible: we are bound by gratitude to God and for the love of truth, to recover the memory of hundreds of anonymous martyrs, most of whom are humble peasant men and peasant women.”
Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, postulator of the cause of canonization of Archbishop Romero, paused to reflect on his humanity. “Romero was not a Superman,” he said. “He was afraid of dying, and he confessed that to his friends on a number of occasions. But he loved Jesus and his flock more than he loved life. This is the meaning of martyrdom. Love for Jesus and for the poor is greater than love for oneself. This is the power of Romero's message.”
Panamanian Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa expressed a similar sentiment: “Before the giant figure of Oscar Arnulfo Romero, we cannot forget what he was: a human being who loved his people, that is to say, everyone. By vocation he was a priest, minister of Christ and servant of those entrusted to him, especially of the peasants and the needy. That is what he wanted to be, above everything else. Now we look forward with joy to the canonization of Archbishop Romero, who is a cause of inspiration for Christian commitment.”
The Bishop of Dallas, Texas, Edward Burns, explained his decision to have a Mass in honor of Romero. “When I went to El Salvador and found out that today was going to be his anniversary, I knew we had to do something, especially for the Latino community living here in Dallas,” said Burns, who assumed his office in February. “Oscar Romero was a great man of faith and a great faithful pastor of our Latin community,” said the bishop during his homily.
The Archbishop of San Juan de Cuyo, Argentina, Jorge Lozano, explained the admiration for Romero felt by many faithful, including himself: “such are the saints, factors of unity and communion even before the hatred of enemies,” he said, adding: “One wishes to imitate his surrender and his clarity. I caress and kiss his grave, his memory and his life.”
Other bishops did not make statements but did speak through their gestures. The Bishop of Astorga, Spain, José Antonio Menéndez, inaugurated a stained glass window with the figure of Blessed Romero in a church, while Bishop Joseph Toal of Scotland unveiled a canvas of Blessed Romero to mark his adoption as the patron saint of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF).