Friday, March 23, 2018

The 38th Anniversary

#BlessedRomero #Beatification
Upon reaching the 38th anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero on the eve of his canonization, I would like to reflect on the two milestones. For some, the canonization process for Archbishop Romero was unduly and unjustly delayed. For others—no doubt, conservatives and traditionalist Catholics—there has been too much of a "rush" to raise him to the altars. In my opinion, this 38-year lapse shows that God's times are perfect.

On the one hand, 38 years has been long enough to mature an assessment of Romero that manages to vindicate him completely, especially against so many efforts to soil him and incriminate him with the whip of the tongue, as Pope Francis has said. On the other hand, the 38 years have also served to show us that the martyrdom of Archbishop Romero is still pertinent, appealing to the Church, to El Salvador, and to the entire world.

In the Church, the canonization of Romero is a redress, an act of contrition that puts an end to the arguments and debates that clouded the name of Romero for several decades. "Rome locuta" and "causa finita", the saying goes. But in siding with Romero, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints is laying down a tremendous challenge to all those who opposed Romero, both in his life and after his death, and also to us who call ourselves his followers. Romero is an "uncomfortable saint," and his ascension to the altars must have consequences for anyone who calls himself Christian.

In El Salvador, Romero's canonization will cause a "gnashing of teeth" (Mat 8:12). The country must analyze what it means for the ARENA party to assume power precisely at the time that Romero has been proposed by the Church as a model human being, when the founders of the party pointed him out as the enemy of their project, so much so that they eliminated him based on that premise. The bishops of El Salvador will also have to reflect, when the Postulator of the Cause affirms that "there was a silence in the Salvadoran Church, as if they had abandoned him"; a "guilty silence in my view, by a part of the Salvadoran episcopate."

Meanwhile in the world, Romero is being accepted as an new Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi, an apostle of peace and nonviolence, who serves as an inspiration beyond confessional limits. However, prophets like Romero also pose a challenge to the selfish hedonism that satisfies all consumerist appetites and violently and aggressively exploits everything that is weak and unprotected, including life itself. Romero invites us to make a more human world.

These 38 years have not changed anything in the validity—or the urgency—of Romero. As on that March 24, 1980, his death continues to denounce and challenge; his blood is still fertile.

El XXXVIII Aniversario

#BeatoRomero #Beatificación
Al alcanzar el 38 aniversario del martirio de Mons. Óscar A. Romero en visperas de su proxima canonizacion, quisiera profundizar sobre los dos hitos.  Para algunos, el proceso de canonizacion de Mons. Romero estuvo indebida e injustamente atrasado.  Para otros—sin duda, conservadores y catolicos tradicionalistas—ha habido demasiada “prisa” para subirlo a los altares.  A mi criterio, este lapso de 38 anos pone en evidencia que los tiempos de Dios son perfectos.

Por un lado, 38 anos ha sido suficiente para madurar una valoracion de Romero que logra reinvindicarlo por completo, especialmente ant tantos esfuerzos de ensuciarlo e incriminarlo con el latigo de la lengua, como decia el Papa Francisco.  Por otro lado, los 38 anos tambien han servido para mostrarnos que el martirio de Mons. Romero sigue vigente, interpelando a la Iglesia, a El Salvador, y al mundo entero.

En la Iglesia, la canonizacion de Romero es un desagravio, un acto de contricion que finiquita los argumentos y debates que varias decadas empanaron el nombre de Romero.  “Roma locuta” y “causa finita”, dice el dicho.  Pero al darle la razon a Romero, la Congregacion para las Causas de los Santos esta imponiendo un tremendo reto a todos los que se opusieron a Romero, tanto en su vida como tras su muerte, y tambien a nosotros los que nos decimes sus seguidores.  Romero es un “santo incomodo”, y su ascenso a los altares ha de de tener consecuencias para todo aquel que se dice cristiano.

En El Salvador, la canonizacion de Romero habra de causar un “crujir de dientes” (Mat 8, 12).  El pais debe analizar que significa para el partido ARENA asumir el poder precisamente en la hora en que Romero ha sido propuesto por la Iglesia como un ser humano modelo, cuando los fundadores del partido lo senalaron como el enemigo de su proyecto, tanto asi, que a base de eso lo eliminaron.  Los obispos de El Salvador tambien tendran que reflexionar, cuando el Postulador de la Causa afirma que “existió un silencio en la Iglesia salvadoreña, como si lo hubiesen abandonado”; un “silencio, culpable según mi punto de vista, de una parte del episcopado salvadoreño”.

Tambien en el mundo, Romero esta siendo aceptado como un unevo Martin Luther King o Mahatma Gandhi, un apostol de la paz y la no violencia, que sirve de inspiracion mas alla de los limites confesionales.  Sin embargo, los profetas como Romero significan tambien un reto al hedonismo egoista que sacia todo apetito consumista y explota de manera violenta y agresiva todo lo que es debil y desprotegido, incluyendo la misma vida.  Romero invita a hacer un mundo mas humano.

Estos 38 anos no han cambiado nada en la vigencia—y urgencia—de Romero.  Tal y como aquel 24 de marzo de 1980, su muerte sigue denunciando e interpelando; su martirio sigue siendo fecundo.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Romero and the “inner continuity” between Benedict and Francis


Francis and Benedict, with Francis' designated cardinal, Romero friend Gregorio Rosa Chavez (L).
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#BlessedRomero #Beatification
In a recent letter, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI refers to Pope Francis in terms of an “inner continuity between the two pontificates, despite all the differences of style and temperament.” The stability that should result from such a declaration has been temporarily lost because of the controversy that has arisen around the way in which Pope Emeritus' letter was published by the Vatican, but it can be recovered if we examine the evidence of such “continuity;” one of the points of convergence is Blessed Oscar Romero.
In a recent interview, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the Postulator of the Romero Cause recalled that it was Benedict XVI who ordered unblocking the cause in December 2012, several months before the action of Pope Francis to expedite it, which was more or less a ratification of the decision by Pope Ratzinger, whose resignation in February 2013 had suspended the thaw. In a subsequent tweet, Paglia expanded, “Both Benedict and Francis, as Cardinals and as Popes, followed the questions closely. As Pope, Benedict was able to remove persistent and non-canonical roadblocks. As Pope, Francis has ensured that the canonical proceeds in full and timely compliance with canon law.
The initial unblocking by Benedict had been previously reported; in fact, it was published for the first time in this blog. The new interview with Archbishop Paglia reveals the energy with which Benedict spoke about the case. According to Paglia, the then Pope told him, “you have to unblock it. Go downstairs immediately, go see the prefect of the Congregation and tell him that the Pope is asking for it to be unblocked and then I will issue it myself.” Benedict’s words contain the same urgency as Francis' statements in 2014: “right now the postulators have to move forward because there are no obstacles ... This is very important, to do it quickly.”
The continuity between pontificates is also evident in the people put in charge of the Romero Cause, starting with Vincenzo Paglia himself, appointed to the Roman Curia and elevated to the rank of archbishop by Benedict XVI in 2011 and retained by Francis as one of his advisers. Similarly, Cardinal Angelo Amato, appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints by Benedict in 2008, has been retained in that position by Francis, event though at 79 he has exceeded the customary retirement age of 75.
This week we are reminded of another key character in Romero's sanctification who acts as a bridge between the two pontificates. On February 22, 2013, in one of his last appointments, Benedict named Archbishop Leon Kalenga as Apostolic Nuncio (Vatican ambassador) for El Salvador. The cleric has played an extremely important role in promoting the cause as a priority within the Salvadoran Church. Now Pope Francis has awarded him with an eminently personal appointment: making him his representative for the Pontiff’s homeland, Nuncio in Argentina.
From the declaration during a press conference in a papal flight in May 2008 by Benedict that “he did not doubt” that Romero deserved beatification until the decree by Francis making it a reality, we can draw a line of continuity between the two pontificates through the figure of the soon-to-be-saint Oscar Romero.

Romero y la “continuidad interior” entre Benedicto y Francisco


Francisco y Benedicto con el cardenal creado por Francisco, el amigo de Romero, Gregorio Rosa Chávez (izq.).
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#BeatoRomero #Beatificación
En una carta reciente, el Papa Emérito Benedicto XVI se refiere al Papa Francisco en términos de una “continuidad interior entre los dos pontificados, incluso con todas las diferencias de estilo y temperamento”. La estabilidad que debería resultar de tal declaración se ha perdido temporalmente por una polémica que ha surgido alrededor de la manera en que la carta del Papa Emérito fue publicada por el Vaticano, pero se puede recuperar examinando la evidencia de tal “continuidad” y uno de los puntos de convergencia podría ser el Beato Óscar Romero.
En una reciente entrevista, el Arzobispo Vincenzo Paglia, el Postulador de la Causa de Romero recuerda que fue Benedicto XVI quien ordenó el desbloqueo de la causa, en diciembre de 2012, varios meses antes de la acción del Papa Francisco para agilizar la causa, que resultó más o menos una ratificación de la decisión del Papa Ratzinger, cuya renuncia en febrero 2013 había suspendido el descongelo.  Después en un tuit, Paglia amplió, “Tanto Benedicto como Francisco, como cardenales y como papas, siguieron los temas de cerca. Siendo papa, Benedicto pudo remover obstáculos persistentes y no canónicos. Como papa, Francisco ha asegurado que lo canónico proceda en cumplimiento pleno y puntual con el derecho canónico”.
El desbloqueo inicial por parte de Benedicto ya se había dado a conocer; inclusive, se publicó por primera vez en este blog.  La entrevista nueva al Arzobispo Paglia revela la energía con que Benedicto hablo sobre el caso.  Según Paglia, el entonces Papa le dijo, “hay que desbloquearla. Baje inmediatamente, vaya a ver al prefecto de la Congregación y dígale que el Papa pide que sea desbloqueada y después lo escribiré yo mismo”.  Las palabras de Benedicto contienen la misma urgencia que las declaraciones de Francisco en el 2014: “ahora los postuladores tienen que ponerse en marcha porque ya no hay impedimentos ... Es muy importante que lo hagan con rapidez”.
La continuidad entre los pontificados también se evidencia en las personas que han llevado la Causa Romero, empezando con el mismo Vincenzo Paglia, nombrado a la Curia Romana y elevado a arzobispo por Benedicto XVI en el 2011 y retenido por Francisco como uno de sus asesores.  También el Cardenal Angelo Amato, nombrado Prefecto de las Congregación para las Causas de los Santos por Benedicto en el 2008, ha sido retenido en ese cargo por Francisco, aunque con sus 79 años ya ha excedido los acostumbrados 75 años para la jubilación.
Esta semana hemos visto otro personaje clave en la santificación de Romero que actúa como puente entre los dos pontificados. El 22 de febrero del 2013, en uno de sus últimos nombramientos, Benedicto nombro al Arzobispo Léon Kalenga como Nuncio Apostólico (embajador del Vaticano) para El Salvador.  El clérigo ha jugado un papel sumamente clave para impulsar la causa como prioridad en la Iglesia Salvadoreña.  Ahora el Papa Francisco lo ha premiado con un nombramiento eminentemente personal: haciéndolo su representante para la tierra natal del Pontífice, Nuncio en Argentina.
Desde la declaración en una conferencia de prensa en un vuelo papal en mayo del 2008 por Benedicto de que “no dudaba” que Romero mereciera la beatificación hasta el decreto de Francisco haciéndolo realidad, podemos trazar una línea de continuidad entre los dos pontificados a través de la figura del pronto-a-ser-santo Óscar Romero.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Romero, date and venue


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#BlessedRomero #Beatification
[Developing story: Pope Francis has summoned the Cardinals to Rome for an ordinary consistory to fix the dates and places for various canonizations, including this one, on May 19, 2018.]  Now that Pope Francis has authorized the miracle that allows Blessed Oscar A. Romero to be declared a saint, the date and place of his canonization remain to be determined. Three options have been put forth—Rome in October of the current year; El Salvador in January 2019; or Panama that same monthbut the Vatican will have the last word. Surveys by Super Martyrio, neither scientific nor (much less) binding, show results like the ones seen in the graphic (from Twitter: El Salvador-63%, Rome-31% and Panama-6%). But, seriously, here is a rundown of the options, one by one, and finally a few brief observations.


In general, canonizations take place in Rome for two related reasons. First, it is the exclusive province of the Roman Pontiff to recognize new saints, and the canon (the official list) is kept in Rome. In second place, a saint is a model for the universal Church, and therefore his or her inclusion in the martyrology is declared from the head of the Church so that all the other sees (dioceses) accept it. Some followers of Romero think that to settle for another option would be to accept a lesser alternative.
In the case of Archbishop Romero, there are three additional aspects that favor Rome as the canonization venue. First, in Rome in October, Archbishop Romero would be canonized alongside Pope Paul VI, and given the closeness between the two, it lends a dramatic value to this option. In addition, linking Paul VI with Romero would raise Romero's renown, since he would be compared to a pope. Second, related to this, the canonizations in October will take place during a synod of bishops, a prestigious occasion, with the presence of a significant number of Church hierarchs from all over the world (and possibly the Pope Emeritus). Finally, the fact that Romero lived six years in Rome and that he was ordained a priest there makes it fitting that he be canonized there.
Notwithstanding, the participants in our survey were not entirely convinced by this option, voting it second. Obviously, Romero's Latin American followers would like him to be canonized on his native continent.


The episcopal conference of El Salvador sent a letter to Pope Francis, imploring him to travel to El Salvador to canonize Romero in his own country. The letter was personally delivered to the pontiff by the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Leon Kalenga on February 2 of the current year. According to Salvadoran Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez, “we have not received a response yet, so there exists a possibility.”

Update: In a subsequent interview, Cardinal Rosa Chávez clarified that the Salvadoran bishops’ proposal was twofold: (1) canonize Romero in El Salvador or, if not, (2) make a stop in El Salvador to visit Romero’s grave on the way to Panama.
According to the current Archbishop of San Salvador Jose Luis Escobar Alas, the Salvadoran prelates argued that, because Archbishop Romero is “the bishop of the poor,” he should be canonized among the poor of his land. The Salvadoran Church also wishes for the Pope to venerate at Romero’s Tomb, and to visit other sites associated with the first Salvadoran saint. Finally, it is no secret that the bishops would like to have a papal visit as consolation for a population beleaguered by violence and social conflict.
However, Vatican analyst Luis Badilla points out that these are “more or less the same arguments as the Indian bishops when they requested that Mother Teresa be canonized in India,” which did not convince the authorities in that case. For the analyst, these are “serious arguments, heartfelt and relevant from a national and regional point of view, but not from a global perspective.” Moreover, the Roman procedure takes local interest into account when it allows for beatifications to be held at the local level. In this sense, the Romero beatification was larger than many canonizations, with something between 250,000 and 500,000 faithful in attendance, including a hundred bishops. Finally, nothing would prevent Francis from visiting El Salvador at a later date.
Perhaps the fatal argument for El Salvador is that if the pope travels to El Salvador, he could steal attendees from World Youth Day in Panama. The trip to Panama has been planned for a couple of years as a privileged event and regional agreements have been established to favor it. All of this could be upset with this modification.


In our survey, the Panamanian option has the least support. Indeed, it is not clear if it is a real option or if journalists misunderstood the Salvadoran bishops asking that it be in El Salvador as an extension of the trip to Panama (but not necessarily in Panama). It is not clear who is really asking for this option.
Panama certainly has its logic. First, Romero is one of the patron saints of the World Youth Day that will be celebrated in January 2019, which is why the pope will be in the country on that date. With the Pope already there, the canonization can be held in Central American lands without having to do almost anything else to make it possible.
But is it true that there would be no alteration? The gathering is supposed to be for young people, not a general gathering of the faithful, and adding a canonization runs the risk of distorting the character of the entire event. The Panamanian option does not seem to "add" anything, since Panama would have the presence of the pope without the canonization, and will also have Romero as patron saint. In addition, the poor from El Salvador would have difficulty traveling to Panama as they would to Rome. Worse yet, Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa, a Romero devotee, dismisses the possibility that Romero should be canonized during WYD.


All speculation and assertion of facts on this subject—including everything preceding in this blogpost—must be taken with a grain of salt. In the end, this is basically a state decision that rests with the highest Vatican authorities. One must differentiate and discard what is conjecture or lobbying by interested figures. Apart from an information leak by someone who has access to the highest levels (the Pope's trusted aides, the Vatican Secretariat of State), the information will only be made official when there is a consistory of cardinals convened by the pope in the next few weeks, and which is expected to be held in April or May. The announcement of its convening will be made known in advance, and that will probably be the next fact we will know—the date of the meeting at which the date will be made known.