Thursday, May 07, 2015

Romero beatification update #16

The entire area inside the dotted red line, larger than Central Park in New York, will be closed to traffic.
The Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Governance and Development of El Salvador, Daysi Villalobos, said Wednesday May 6, that approximately half a million people are expected at the beatification of Archbishop Óscar A. Romero, two weeks from this Saturday. “Our government is supporting the Catholic Church, in matters of security, prevention plans and health,” she said.

The church asked the government for a day off for residents of San Salvador on May 22 and 23; and for all Salvadorans on May 23 (the day of the beatification).  Cardinal Amato will reportedly read a message from Pope Francis to El Salvador during the ceremony.

On a related note, the Director General of Immigration Hector Antonio Rodriguez announced that he will act to facilitate ease of access through different points of entry for the more than 10 thousand people expected to enter from abroad. The Legislative Assembly approved tax exemption for tourists entering to be part of the event, granting “courtesy visas” to citizens of countries that are category B and C for El Salvador.
The half a million figure for the overall event reiterates the initial projection for the influx at the ceremony. Readers may have detected something odd in the official figures of the crowd estimates for the event. In a video statement in March, Archbishop José Luis Escobar spoke of “a million or half a million people.” By the end of that month, the figure had settled to half a million. In a press conference on April 15, organizers spoke of 260,000 participants. In the most recent conference, there was talk of 227,000 people.
The strange thing is that the estimates seemed not only to be declining, but also gaining more precision in their numbers. Here is the explanation: the figure the Church is using is based on the capacity of the spaces designated for “participation” in their master plan [Full details]. The Church has designated specific places it wishes to locate the faithful, so they can follow the ceremony on giant screens throughout the city, access communion when the time comes, etc. 227,000 is the total capacity of these combined areas (mainly along stretches of Alameda Roosevelt and Paseo General Escalon—see photo). However, many more people may very well come, and that's what Deputy Minister Villalobos was referring to.
In the coming days, San Salvador will witness the start of construction of the temporary altar that will become “Ground Zero” the day of the beatification.  One of the mini-dramas playing out is whether a group of civil war veterans who has been occupying the plaza will let construction crews do their work.  They have been threatening not to leave, even for the beatification. Located in Sector “A” of the location plan, in the Divine Savior of the World Monument itself, this will be the VIP area of ​​the ceremony (photo). 15,000 seats here are reserved for peasants, workers, the poor and other marginalized communities dear to Romero.  For the rest of us, it will be rather an area to avoid because it will be difficult to navigate the crowds here. Next week, I will analyze the best places to follow the beatification. And the week after, the final installment will tell us how to follow the beatification remotely, either online or on television.
In the meantime, we will continue to monitor developments and provide a Thursday update regarding the ongoing beatification plans. 

Previous reports:

No. 1   Theologians voted, now what?
No. 2   Meet Card. Amato and Archb. Paglia
No. 3   Preview of Romero Week in London
No. 4   After decree signed, site selected
No. 5   Salvadoran Church-State coordinators
No. 6   The beatification date I preferred
No. 7   Confirmation of the site
No. 8   Why Salvador del Mundo was chosen
No. 9   Online information sources
No. 10 March 24—35th anniversary preview
No. 11 A dress rehearsal for the ceremony
No. 12 “Memo to Journalists”
No. 13 Services and information for visitors
No. 14 Reasons to go to the beatification
No. 15 Ceremony planning and schedule
No. 16 You are here!
No. 17 Final Salvador travel memo
No. 18 How to watch the beatification remotely
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