JUBILEE YEAR for the CENTENNIAL of BLESSED ROMERO, 2016 — 2017
|Francis and Benedict, with Francis' designated cardinal, Romero friend Gregorio Rosa Chavez (L).|
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.