The cleric who heads the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (“CCS”)—the Catholic Church’s authority in charge of recognizing new saints—has reportedly said that nothing now stands in the way of the beatification of Archbishop Óscar A. Romero of El Salvador. That statement was attributed to Card. Angelo Amato, the Prefect of the CCS (pictured), by another top cleric, Card. Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, who heads the global council of eight cardinals advising Pope Francis on reforms for the Church. Card. Rodríguez was in Verona, leading an Italian seminar on the social doctrine of the Church when he told journalists: “I asked Cardinal Amato … if there are obstacles for the beatification of Archbishop Romero and he told me no,” according to an Italian press report. “I maintain therefore that this process must go forward,” the Cardinal reportedly added.
The news is important for three reasons. First, it is the first and highest-sourced indication of a favorable outlook at the CCS. Earlier, in April of this year, it was widely reported that the new pope was eager to get the process moving and had lifted a hold order imposed at an unspecified earlier time. Later, in July, it was reported that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in charge of safeguarding Catholic orthodoxy, had signed off on proceeding to beatify Romero. The suggestion that the CCS, too, has given a green light is new, but it does not tell us how close we are to the end. For example, to say that there are “no obstacles” is not to say that there are no procedural “hurdles” or formal steps that still need to be taken—most significantly, the review and approval of commissions of cardinals and theologians, who would then send Pope Francis a decree recognizing Romero’s martyrdom, for the Pope to sign.
Second, Card. Rodríguez’s statement is very revealing about the inner workings of the Roman curia in handling the canonization cause. The fact that Card. Rodríguez, who is sometimes referred to as the “Vice-Pope” because of his role on the reform council, has asked the Prefect of the CCS for a status report suggests a push to keep the process moving forward. It would be hard to conceive that such an inquiry would be brushed aside by the CCS, given Card. Rodríguez’s known closeness to his fellow Latin American, Pope Francis, and given Card. Rodríguez’s status as a moral voice on social justice and as a representative of Latin America (Card. Rodríguez’s country, Honduras, is next door to Archbishop Romero’s El Salvador; and Rodríguez met Romero and is an avowed Romero devotee).
Finally, Card. Rodríguez’s focus on the lack of “obstacles” signals that, even in the absence of an actual beatification announcement, the faithful should have confidence that beatification is on the horizon. The lack of an announcement so far may be related to politics. According to Msgr. Jesús Delgado, a senior Salvadoran cleric who was close to Romero, it could be unwise for the Church to act before the February 2, 2014 presidential elections in El Salvador (the outcome may not be determined until a runoff, which would take place on March 9). Holding off till after the elections would not be unprecedented: the Church did the same with respect to the beatification of Cristero martyr Miguel Pro, waiting until after presidential elections in Mexico in 1987, even though that year was the 60th anniversary of Pro’s martyrdom. The “no obstacles” announcement may give the Salvadoran political system an early warning of what is to come.