With three hours still to go until the mass of celebration for the beatification of Oscar Romero, the Plaza El Salvador del Mundo and the surrounding streets are filled with people, some of whom slept in the street overnight through the downpours and the lightning. The mood is celebratory but the guns are everywhere--both hidden and in plain sight. We were not one hundred yards into our 5am trek to the Plaza from our hotel a mile away before we ran into our first soldier, armed to the teeth and standing in the pitch dark. Half past five, someone fired off a series of fireworks as we walked toward the Plaza--and there, in everyone's cringe and moment of nervous laughter, was another reminder that San Salvador is the most dangerous city in the Western Hemisphere, and the plague of violence has not ceased for the beatification. But fireworks they were. Entry to the press tent was surprisingly easy--after some confusion over the proper gate, security gave reporters a quick search and let us in. We were then promptly kicked out by an officious busybody with a crucifix around her neck and no apparent portfolio--you've met her before, because she lives in your parish too. Viva la Iglesia! But we're back in, and listening to the music and the chants begin. Volunteers are everywhere behind the altar, filling ciboria with unconsecrated hosts, guarding Romero's relics (including the shirt taken yesterday from La Capilla del Hospital Providencia), creating human chains to bring small bags of water to the 800 seats for dignitaries, dressing a massive altar. Mass at 10. VIva Monsenor!
The Beatification of Oscar Romero