BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO, MAY 23, 2015
This was originally published in FirstThings.com on July 8, 2015.
Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated by a right-wing sniper while celebrating Mass in 1980, was raised to the altars in a magnificent beatification ceremony in San Salvador this May. Romero’s beatification was full of notes of reconciliation, which seemed to mark the official end of the mourning for the Salvadoran civil war, officially unleashed by his assassination. The words of Psalm 125, intoned by the choir, seemed to sum up the day: “They that sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.” Half a million gathered around a temporary altar upholstered in martyr’s red and topped in Vatican yellow and white, on an iconic San Salvador plaza named after the World’s Savior (“El Salvador del Mundo,” the country’s namesake patron saint). Five Latin American presidents were in attendance, and both the Pope and the President of the United States issued statements for the occasion. Nearly 1,300 priests concelebrated; the opening procession took half an hour to complete. The temporary altar was backed by an imposing volcano, and topped by an unexpected solar halo which appeared soon after Romero’s beatification was proclaimed.
|The temporary altar.|
When Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the Vatican official in charge of the ceremony, entered the square, he was smiling and waving, apparently partaking of the rapturous mood. The joyous tone of the 125-piece, four-part choir was reminiscent of an American Gospel group, and an unknowing observer could be forgiven for not realizing this was the beatification of a man who had been killed a mere thirty-five years before amidst widespread massacres and a fratricidal civil war. Everything about the scene stood in stark contrast to the dread of those years. Whereas Romero had previously been a divisive figure, he was now universally embraced. The sister and the son of the man accused of having ordered his murder had VIP seats to the ceremony. Where he had been rejected by his fellow Salvadoran bishops, the approximately one hundred bishops at the beatification all wore chasubles bearing Romero’s episcopal shield, and Cardinal Amato wore a miter emblazoned with Romero’s episcopal motto: “Sentir con la Iglesia” (“To Think and Feel With the Church”).
|Street vendor watches the bishops’ procession.|
“Following the event, watching the course of the Eucharistic celebration,” said Luis Badilla, a Rome-based church-watcher, “I got the strong sense that Romero would be very happy. It seemed to me to be a very meek, very humble ceremony. It was splendid. Nothing was missing and nothing abounded. It was a ceremony about dignity in poverty, just like Romero.” Attendance was at least equal to, and likely exceeded, that of the beatifications of Padre Pio, Mother Teresa and St. Josemaría Escrivá, yet everything went off without a hitch.
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|Faithful kneel on the pavement during Communion.|