Pope Francis has once again been reminded of Archbishop Oscar Romero—this time during an audience with the Argentine Nobel Peace Laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Félix Díaz, the leader of the ethnic Qom from Formosa, Argentina, which centered on the concerns of the indigenous peoples of Latin America. According to Pérez Esquivel, the papal audience also included a discussion relating to Liberation Theology and the Church’s commitment to the poor, during which the Nobel laureate presented the Pontiff with a copy of a document called the “Pact of the Catacombs,” signed by forty Council Fathers in November 1965, during the Second Vatican Council, in which the signatories agreed to take up a commitment on behalf of the poor. The presentation was part of an outreach to the Pontiff by Perez Esquivel on behalf of Bishop Pedro Casaldaliga, a progressive Latin American cleric. According to reports, the Pope was able to appreciate among the signatories to the document, the name of Archbishop Romero. According to other reports, the Pope confirmed he had "unblocked" the canonization of Archbishop Romero.
In fact, Archbishop Romero was not among the signatories to the document, signed after a special mass in the Catacombs of St. Domitilla on November 16, 1965. A study by Fr. José Oscar Beozzo of the Pontifical Catholic University of Río de Janeiro of the attendees to the Mass shows that Romero was not among those present (Romero was not made a bishop until 1970). Nevertheless, it is striking that Archbishop Romero’s name has been raised yet again before the Pontiff. The subject of Archbishop Romero had been discussed in at least six previous meetings during Pope Francis’ 3- month pontificate:
- During the Pope’s greeting of the Salvadoran Ambassador on March 19, 2013, on the day of the Pope’s installation, when Francis reportedly told the Ambassador, ‘‘I hope that under this pontificate we can beatify [Romero].’’;
- During the Pope’s brief encounter with the First Lady of El Salvador on March 19, 2013, after his installation when the Pope is said to have told the President’s wife that he hoped the canonization of Archb. Romero would be “as soon as possible;”
- During a March 20, 2013 audience, Anglican archbishop of York John Sentamu handed Pope Francis a "Romero Cross" like the one Sentamu wears.
- During the Pope’s earlier meeting with Mr. Pérez Esquivel on March 21, 2013, during the week during which Pérez Esquivel was the keynote speaker at Rome’s commemoration of the anniversary of Romero’s assassination;
- During an April 20, 2013 audience with Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the Postulator of Romero’s cause, during which the Pope reportedly told Archb. Paglia that he was “unblocking” Archb. Romero’s beatification; and
- During a May 23, 2013 audience with the President of El Salvador during which the main focus was the Romero beatification.