BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO, MAY 23, 2015
Without a doubt, Blessed Oscar A. Romero of El Salvador is one of the top Catholic newsmakers of the year. If you are declared a martyr of the faith, have an asteroid named after you, are named patron saint of two worldwide Catholic organizations, and your beatification is hailed as “the top church story in Latin America”—as the Spanish Catholic newspaper Vida Nueva just did for Romero—then it can fairly be said you had an astonishing year. All of that was Oscar Romero this year, with signs of continued newsworthiness in the future. Here are the Top 10 stories of the Romero Year.
1. ROMERO RECOGNIZED AS A MARTYR
Early in the year, a panel of Vatican theologians, followed by a commission of cardinals and bishops, then the Pope himself, unanymously approved a finding that Romero was a martyr of the Church because he was killed “in hatred of the faith.” It was a historic decision, with theological, historical, and political repercussions felt from the Vatican to San Salvador. Although the beatification ceremony outshined it in terms of spectacle, this pivotal decision was a tectonic shift in the trajectory of the cause and similarly important to the history of the Church.
2. ROMERO BEATIFIED IN SPLENDID SAN SALVADOR CEREMONY
Archbishop Romero was beatified in San Salvador on May 23rd, the Saturday before Pentecost, in an outdoor ceremony with half a million in attendance. “It was splendid,” said the Vaticanista Luis Badilla. “Nothing was missing and nothing abounded. It was a ceremony about dignity in poverty, just like Romero.” It was the largest non-papal beatification ceremony in church history, and it was “a planetary celebration” covered by 3,000 journalists and broadcast around the world by 14 TV networks, including Salt + Light TV in Canada, TeleSur in South America, ESNE in the Americas and Europe, TV2000 in Italy, and CNN En Español in the USA.
3. POPE FRANCIS RECOGNIZES CHURCH TREATED ROMERO UNJUSTLY
In remarkably candid remarks, Pope Francis told a delegation of Salvadorans at the Vatican that Archbishop Romero had been “defamed, slandered, soiled—that is, his martyrdom continued even by his brothers in the priesthood and in the episcopate” in pointed criticisms of Romero before and after his death. Although every canonization meets resistance within the Church, the resistance to Romero had been more entrenched, and thus the Pope’s willingness to acknowledge it signaled a desire to let the bad air out of the controversy.
4. ROMERO AIDE ENSNARED IN CHILD SEX ABUSE SCANDAL
When a solar halo appeared, seemingly miraculously, during the beatification ceremony, it made the story of Romero’s beatification appear like a completely positive and gilded story. A major black spot appeared six months later, when the Salvadoran Church announced that Romero’s collaborator, biographer, and historian, Msgr. Jesus Delgado, had sexually abused a parishioner from the time she was 9 years-old, until aged 17. The news has not affected Romero’s cause, as his name has never been implicated the church abuse scandals despite almost constant smear-campaigns directed at him over 35 years (see no. 3 above).
5. THREE MIRACLES REPORTED WITHIN SIX MONTHS
When the Salvadoran Church announced in October that it had identified three miracle cures through Romero’s intercession, it was seen as a sign that Romero could move very quickly to canonization. After his beatification last year, Romero needs one certified miracle to be declared a saint. Following the announcement, the archdiocese forwarded preliminary reports to Rome and is awaiting instructions on which of the cures to submit as the qualifying canonization miracle (two of the three are supposedly “first class” miracles).
6. SCIENTISTS NAME ASTEROID AFTER ROMERO
Catholic news outlets, including Vatican Radio, and Salvadorans, including the president of El Salvador who retweeted the news, were mesmerized when scientists named a minor planet after Archbishop Romero in August. The news was particularly dazzling in El Salvador, where Romero’s countrymen were amazed to see their martyred archbishop so recognized.
7. THE GLOBAL CHURCH EMBRACES ROMERO
Around the world, Church support coalesced around the newly minted Blessed. Caritas Internationalis and the World Catholic Association for Communication (SIGNIS) adopted Romero as a patron saint. Various leading churchmen offered masses of thanksgiving for Romero’s beatification—including in Chicago, Los Angeles, and London. A Roman Catholic parish was named after Romero in California, as well as several chapels in South America.
8. THE SALVADORAN CHURCH ADOPTS ROMERO AS ITS STANDARD
In El Salvador, the local church modified the liturgy so that Romero’s name is invoked in every Mass. The bishops have ordered Romero’s image to be displayed in every Church and they named their major seminary after him. Romero’s relics have been touring the country, parish by parish, and have received a reverent reception at every stop. In short, the ecclesial community long accused of neglecting Romero has now adopted him as the face of their church.
9. POPE FRANCIS DEFINES ROMERO
In the first two years of his pontificate, Pope Francis only spoke about Romero once, when at the end of the second year, he was asked about Romero by journalists. All that changed this year, when Francis spoke about Romero on six public occasions, including a general audience, an Angelus recitation, a Regina Caeli prayer, a speech to a visiting Salvadoran delegation (see no. 3 above), a lengthy letter to the Salvadoran church, and his year-end remarks to the Roman Curia. That’s twice as many references as Pope Benedict made during his whole pontificate!
10. RUTILIO GRANDE NEXT-IN-LINE FOR BEATIFICATION
The news that Fr. Rutilio Grande is moving fast toward becoming the second Salvadoran ‘Blessed’ is gratifying both because Grande was Romero’s friend, but also because Church authorities are talking about beatifying Grande and canonizing Romero together, soon.
Meanwhile, this blog completed its ninth year: blogging the beatification live and on location, and providing complete coverage and analysis of the ceremony and its various texts in the months since. A post from this blog was republished in L’Osservatore Romano, and the asteroid story, first published here, was picked up by Vatican Insider, Vatican Radio, various Salvadoran papers, and Rome Reports. We forged a blog partnership with Daily Theology, and provided a number of special reports, including the recent “Romero in Cuba.”
Prior Year Reports:
Top 10 of 2014
Top 10 of 2013
Top 10 of 2012
Top 10 of 2011
Top 10 of 2010
Top 10 of 2008
Top 10 of 2007
Roundup of 2006 (Spanish)