JUBILEE YEAR for the CENTENNIAL of BLESSED ROMERO, 2016 — 2017
When the Minister of Public Works of El Salvador Gerson Martinez greeted Pope Francis after a General Audience in St. Peter's Square, the official gave the pope a modest, handmade relic with the image of Father Rutilio Grande and Blessed Romero. The Pontiff stared at the picture and exclaimed, “My great friend, Rutilio!”
The official repeated the customary invitation to the Latin American pope to visit El Salvador, petitions the pope hears out with a friendly smile, but without making any promises. They also spoke of a sculpture to be placed in a “Reconciliation Square” which will be inaugurated to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Peace Accords during the Centenary of Blessed Romero’s Birth next year. The minister told the Pope that the sculptor comes from one of the most vulnerable areas. The Pope stared at the design and said “this will be another holy door.”
However, the comments about Father Grande are the ones that get my attention. When the pope refers to the Salvadoran Jesuit martyr as “my friend,” the pontiff does not refer to a personal friendship with his Jesuit confrere. The pope has said in an interview that he encountered Grande at a meeting of Latin American Jesuits during the 70s, but did not have an opportunity to approach him. When Francis calls Rutilio Grande a friend, he means it in the spiritual sense, as when he said in his letter on Romero: “Those who have Monseñor Romero as a friend in the faith ...” As to the Jesuit, Francis has said that, “after his death, I became very interested in him,” because “he left the center to go to the periphery”—one of the main lessons of the Francis papacy.
In fact, Francis has also said he considers Rutilio Grande as the mastermind of the beatification of Romero, saying that Romero’s conversion was the “first miracle” of Father Grande, whose assassination in 1977 led to the unleashing of Romero’s audacious denunciation. The diocesan process for the beatification of Father Grande was concluded on August 16 this year and is now in Rome awaiting its happy end.
|The beatification documents.|