El Salvador’s presidential election, as expected, will go to a second round. None of the five candidates vying for the presidency was able to gain the required 50% +1 absolute majority on Sunday, February 2, and so the contest will be decided in a runoff between the two top vote-getters, per the Salvadoran constitution. The second round of voting will take place on March 9. And so, no announcement is expected with regard to the beatification of assassinated Archbishop Óscar A. Romero, until after March 9, to avoid political entanglements for the canonization cause.
After March 9, things could accelerate. The anniversary of Romero’s assassination at the end of the month (March 24) will see the unveiling of a statue in honor of Romero in Rome, which should bring more attention than usual to the beatification process, as this will also be the first anniversary planned and carried out entirely during the pontificate of the first Latin American pope, a reported admirer of the Servant of God. A few notes to highlight:
- Pope Francis was reported to have discussed Archbishop Romero with yet another visitor. This past week, the Pontiff received Fr. Luigi Ciotti, an Italian priest noted for taking on the mafia. “So many figures accompanied our dialogue,” Fr. Luigi told the Italian paper «La Repubblica,» “from Oscar Romero to don Tonino Bello.” (Antonio “Tonino” Bello was the Bishop of Molfetta on whose death anniversary Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia announced last year that Pope Francis had “unblocked” Archbishop Romero’s beatification cause. Paglia said that he hoped that Romero and Bello could be beatified together.)
- The Archbishop Romero Trust in London has announced its program for the 34th anniversary of Romero’s martyrdom in March. The Trust announced that German Jesuit theologian Fr. Martin Maier, the rector of the Jesuit community in Munich, will deliver a series of five lectures at British venues ranging from London to Glasgow. Fr. Maier studied in San Salvador before his ordination and served as a pastor in a rural community in El Salvador between 1989 and 1991. He has returned to the country on numerous occasions ever since. For the last several years, the Trust has been putting on a “Romero week” to commemorate the March 24 anniversary. This year’s events, in addition to the Maier lectures, will feature lectures by Trust chair Julian Filochowski and Jan Graffius, who led efforts to conserve Romero relics in San Salvador.
- Back to the Salvadoran election, even though no final winner was produced, the Left came close. This was the first time all the major candidates have been favorable to Archbishop Romero. The closest, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, of the former guerrillas, went to morning Mass at the chapel where Romero was gunned down (photo). The runner-up, Norman Quijano, campaigned for mayor of San Salvador claiming that he had the same “preferential option for the poor” that characterized Romero and, when marchers defiled a Romero statue in San Salvador, the rightwing mayor offered municipal funds to fix the damage and was photographed overseeing repairs. In a distant third place, ex-President Tony Saca (center-right) was a former Romero altar boy and lobbied Pope Benedict XVI to advance Romero’s beatification cause. Accordingly, no matter who wins the runoff, it is unlikely to make a difference to the beatification cause.