Pope Francis has ordered the promulgation of the decree recognizing that Archbishop Oscar Arnolfo Romero Galdamez is a martyr, and that “he was killed in hatred of the faith” on March 24, 1980, in San Salvador.
He made his decision known when he received the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in audience this morning, February 3, the Vatican said in a press communique issued shortly afterwards. Francis has thereby given the green light for Romero’s beatification.
The El Salvadoran archbishop was born on August, 15, 1917 and assassinated, while celebrating mass in San Salvador, on March 24, 1980. Earlier he had received death threats for repeatedly denouncing the violence and killings of countless people, including peasants, labor leaders and priests, by death squads and for his defense of the landless poor and his call for justice and respect for human rights in the country. On the eve of his death he called on the soldiers to obey God’s commandments and lay down their guns so as not to kill their own people. An enormous crowd, that included church leaders from many countries, attended his funeral but there was violence even at that.
Archbishop Romero has long been considered a martyr by Catholics not only in his homeland but throughout Latin America and in other continents too, as well as by members of other Christian Churches.
Although John Paul II recognized him as a Servant of God in 1997, the cause for his beatification was held up and stalled for many years in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, due to opposition from various quarters including from some influential prelates from Latin America working in the Vatican, who questioned whether he was killed for political reasons rather than out of “hatred of the faith.” Many theological objections were raised during the process but the cause was finally ‘unblocked’ in 2013 after Francis became pope.
Less than one month ago, on January 8, ago the Theological Commission of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints reached the crucial decision, by unanimous vote, that he had been killed “out of hatred for the faith.” It concluded that his words and actions in favor of the poor and for justice were motivated by his faith,and not by political reasons. Some weeks later, the Commission of Cardinal and Bishops of the Congregation also gave its positive verdict, and now the first Latin American Pope has recognized that Romero was killed “in hatred of the faith”, and is thus a martyr. Francis has given the green light for his beatification.
The Vatican also announced today that Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the postulator of the cause for the beatification of Romero, will give a press briefing tomorrow, February 4. He is expected then to announce the date for the beatification ceremony.