BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO, MAY 23, 2015
The Salvadoran Church will invite Pope Francis to come to El Salvador and, while he is there, to canonize Blessed Oscar Romero and to beatify Servant of God Rutilio Grande. The Pontiff has already made it known he plans to visit Mexico and possibly Colombia in 2016, so that trip seems to present the perfect opportunity to visit El Salvador. I’ll even throw in this tantalizing tidbit. One scenario has Francis going to Colombia for a peace treaty that may be signed on March 23rd. This raises the prospect of Francis going to El Salvador to canonize Romero on or near the March 24th anniversary of his martyrdom! Except that I don’t see it happening.
The problem is that the Romero canonization and the Grande beatification are both contingent, open-ended processes that a papal trip is nearly impossible to plan around, and that there might not be enough time to finish what remains to be done on time to include it in the next papal Latin America jaunt. Take the Romero canonization. The Salvadoran Church thinks it has the miracles required for canonization. But they still have to be investigated by an independent medical commission, their findings approved by a commission of theologians, the theologians’ decision affirmed by a commission of cardinals, and that decision approved by the Pope. Even if we imagine a fast track: two months for the doctors, one month for the theologians, and one month for the cardinals (the soonest they likely can move to each next step requires one month due to the need to fall into the monthly schedules of the various groups), that itself would take us to February. It is just impossible to wait until then to have clarity on whether Francis will have a reason to go. That doesn’t even take into account the need to move the Grande cause along.
This all reminds me of the excitement that built around the idea earlier this year that Francis would go to El Salvador to beatify Romero. That is considering that the prospect being considered was for Francis to go to El Salvador as a part of his trip to North America that brought him to the United States this past September. Even for a trip that late in the year, the moving parts of the Romero beatification proved too much uncertainty to work around.
Nothing would please me more than for Blessed Romero to be canonized the year after he was beatified, but perhaps a more surefire way to make sure he is canonized by the Pope in El Salvador is to shoot for a 2017 canonization, around the time of the centenary of his birth (August 15, 2017). Francis did promise in Brazil that he would return to Aparecida in 2017, so there should be a Latin America trip in 2017 as well.
* * *Yes, we can!: In order not be entirely negative, I want to acknowledge that if the Holy Spirit (and the Holy Father) really intend for the trip and the canonization to happen in 2016, it can be done. Two obvious ways come to mind: (1) the equipollent canonization of Romero, which skips over the requirement for a miracle (as was done with St. John XXIII and St. Junipero Serra ... but if there are three miracles, why not wait for another year?); and (2) planning for the trip late enough in the year (I think August/September would be feasible, as the main thing that hindered the visit to El Salvador in September this year was mostly papal preferences).