Sunday, August 17, 2014

Happy birthday, Romero

Archbishop Escobar greets President and Mrs. Sanchez Ceren.  Prensa Latina photo.

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Archbishop Oscar A. Romero’s 97th birthday was marked with the launching in San Salvador of a three-year commemorative program leading up to his 2017 centennial; with expanded tributes online; and with continued behind-the-scenes work on his beatification cause in Rome.  Flying back from a trip to South Korea, Pope Francis told reporters, “For me, Romero is a man of God,” but said the beatification process must be allowed to run its course.

In San Salvador, the local church launched a “Romero Triennium,” a three year program of reflections and commemorations that the bishops said had been blessed by the Holy Father when it was presented to him during a May 9 audience.  The Triennium was inaugurated with a special mass in a packed San Salvador Cathedral, attended by the Archbishop of San Salvador, the Papal Nuncio, and four bishops from the Salvadoran episcopal conference, as well as “lots of clergy,” said Julian Filochowski, the chair of the Romero Foundation in London, who was in El Salvador for the commemorations.  The President of El Salvador and the First Lady were in the front row,” said Filochowski, “and several Salvadoran government ministers were also in attendance.”

The first year of the commemorations, which runs from August 2014 through July 2015 honors Romero, Man of God, and includes monthly meditations based on Romero’s spirituality.  Super Martyrio commits to follow the program and post monthly reflections that track the official program.  From August 2015-July 2016, the Triennium will pay tribute to Romero, Man of the Church and the last year culminating in the 100th anniversary of Romero’s 1917 birth will memorialize Romero, Servant of the Poor.  It is hoped that Pope Francis will participate in the centenary celebrations.

New statue unveiled in Ciudad Barrios.  Museo Romero photo.

In Ciudad Barrios, the remote village in El Salvador where Romero was born, a new statue of the favorite son was unveiled.  The square outside the village church, where Romero volunteered to sweep the floors as a child, has been renamed Oscar Romero Park.  Late night fireworks lit up the hillside hamlet’s sky to cap off the festivities.

Around the world, many remembered Romero on the Internet.  No one worked harder to promote Romero this year than the members of the Christian rock group The Project, whose musical video “Romero” has become a staple for commemorating the Salvadoran martyr.  This year, in promoting the video we concentrated our efforts on El Salvador making use of social media - mainly Twitter and Facebook,” the group’s Duane Arnold told Super Martyrio.  In addition to generating thousands of hits on YouTube, the group got play on more than a dozen radio stations and a number of television stations in El Salvador, and posted to several government-affiliated web sites and feeds.

The group originally released their song based on Romero’s own words in their 2012 album “Martyrs’ Prayers,” but they still promote it and find that it continues to attract new listeners today.  They were picked up earlier this year by RomeReports.  I have performed the song Romero live hundreds of times,” said Michael Glen Bell, the group’s front-man.  The overwhelming emotion that I have observed in the listeners is one of hope,” said Bell.  With the song ending with Romero saying ‘A Bishop will die but the Church, God's people will survive,’ it is quite powerful - especially when the listeners know they are the ‘God’s people’ in Romero’s words.”

Although their album features powerful testimonies of other martyrs, “we do feel a special devotion to Romero,” said the group’s Arnold.  He is a modern man - a modern saint. He allowed himself to be moved by the events of his time, as we must.”  Other online tributes to Romero this year included a remembrance on Patheos and a new collection of quotes from the Ignatian Solidarity Network.

Meanwhile, Vatican officials continued to quietly complete work on the martyred bishop’s beatification cause.  Flying back from his trip to South Korea, Pope Francis said that theologians still need to clarify whether martyrdom applies only to those killed for professing the faith or also to those killed for doing the “works that Jesus commands us to do for our neighbor,” according to CNS.   “For me, Romero is a man of God,” Francis was quoted as saying. “But the process must go ahead, and God must give his sign. If he wants to do so, he will.”   Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the Postulator of the Cause, broke from his usual reserve to congratulate The Project.  I thank God for you,” Paglia Tweeted the group.

The celebrations [of Romero’s birthday] this year seemed to have a greater intensity than in previous years,” said Arnold.  There is a sense that we are moving towards a goal - the beatification of Monseñor Romero. In the past, the beatification was conceptual - in the background, not the forefront. This year, with the unblocking of the process and the apparent support of the Holy Father, the beatification has become an impending reality.”
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