JUBILEE YEAR for the CENTENNIAL of BLESSED ROMERO, 2016 — 2017
This note will address some trivia relating to the canonization of Archbishop Romero in October of this year. This is not to detract from the solemnity of this great ecclesial event, but to take in all at once certain secondary—and, maybe, even in and of themselves, superficial—facts, that nevertheless help us to understand the significance of the occasion. I have organized my thoughts into seven factoids, and three things to watch during the ceremony.
Seven pieces of trivia
1. Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Romero will be the first two saints to be both beatified and canonized by Pope Francis. The two stages have been completed under the same pontificate; in fact, Montini and Romero—the master and the disciple—have walked together in the last stretch of their processes, receiving the approvals from the medical experts, theologians, cardinals and bishops, pope, consistory and now canonization, side by side in each successive stage. They are arguably two pillars of this pontificate.
2. This will be the first time that a pope (Paul VI) will be canonized alongside a saint who is not also a pope (Romero and the others). In previous cases in which the popes have been canonized, they have been canonized alone, or alongside another pope, as in the canonization of John Paul II with John XXIII in 2014, and the beatification of John XXIII along with Pius IX in the year 2000. In fact, the canonization will represents a cross section of the entire Church, because a pope, an archbishop, two priests, two nuns and a lay young man will be raised to the altars.
3. Archbishop Romero will be the first post-conciliar martyr to be canonized by the Church. This factor cannot be overlooked when discussing the significance of “Saint Romero.” Other martyrs of the post-conciliar period have been beatified (for example, Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko), but Romero is the first to achieve the universal cultus.
4. Archbishop Romero will be the first bishop canonized in a synod of bishops. Setting aside the canonization of popes—because we recognize that popes are bishops—this will be the first time that a person whose highest rank achieved was that of bishop has been canonized during a synod. Perhaps that is why Archbishop Romero has received equal billing with Paul VI in the press: because they are both bishops.
5. Archbishop Romero will be the first saint born in any Central American country; the twelfth born in Latin America. There have been saints that are attributed to the two regions, but born in other places.
6. Archbishop Romero will be the first alumnus of the Pio-Latino College (for Latin American seminarians in Rome) to be proclaimed a saint. We will have to see if this wins him the patronage of his alma mater.
7. Finally, Montini, Romero and the other October saints are part of the first canonization of Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. This signals a changing of the guard with respect to this ecclesial process.
Now, three aspects of the ceremony that have not been settled, which arouse my curiosity and which I would identify as things to watch as the story plays out:
I. Will the Pope Emeritus attend?—Due to his fragility and advanced age, Benedict XVI has greatly reduced his participation in such Church ceremonies. However, it bears asking if the canonization of one of his predecessors, Pope Paul VI, will draw him to St. Peter’s Square this time. The Pontiff Emeritus participated in the double-canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII—and in the beatification of Paul VI. In addition, Benedict was made archbishop and cardinal by Pope Montini, whom he praised in his encyclical letter «Caritas In Veritate,» in which he asserted that “Paul VI clearly understood that the social question had become worldwide and he grasped the interconnection between the impetus towards the unification of humanity and the Christian ideal of a single family of peoples in solidarity and fraternity” (CIV, 13).
II. Will Pope Francis speak Spanish?—The homiletic style for canonizations varies a lot in the Francis pontificate: sometimes he does not even mention the canonized saints, sometimes he mentions them in passing at the end, and sometimes he has dedicated a good part of his homily to the figures being raised to the altars. In previous canonizations carried out in Rome, the Pope has spoken his homily in Italian; but in the first one he officiated in May 2013, in which he elevated to the altars the Mexican Saint Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala and the Colombian Saint Maria de Jesus Montoya Upegui, he said part of the homily in Spanish. This time, it is expected that up to 5,000 Salvadorans will attend a canonization with a lot of Latin American interest, so it will be interesting to see if the Pope speaks to this audience in Spanish.
III. Will Pope Francis wear the Romero miter?—Leaving the most amusing question for last, I wonder if the Pope will wear the Romero style miter sent to him by the Salvadoran Church after the beatification. In fact, the Pope almost never breaks his custom of wearing only miters with the simple linear design that has come to characterize him since his days as an auxiliary bishop. In Kenya in 2015, he wore a miter with a tribal design. The Romeroesque miter has the same pattern as the miter Francis usually wears, and it also bears Romero’s motto, which is Jesuit in origin: “To Hear and Feel With The Church.” Francis has never worn it, and if he is ever going to wear it, this should be the most fitting occasion.