LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- More than 3,000 people filled the pews of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels in Los Angeles March 22 for a Spanish Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, to mark the anniversary of the assassination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero.
"My brothers and sisters, today we are celebrating Archbishop Romero's memory. And we are giving thanks to God that Pope Francis has declared that he was a martyr and has scheduled his beatification for this coming May," said Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles.
Salvadoran priests, including one who worked closely with Archbishop Romero, concelebrated the Mass attended by California Gov. Edmund Brown Jr. and several diplomatic leaders.
"I know he has inspired many of you," Archbishop Gomez said during his homily. "He has also been an inspiration to me in my ministry for his humility and courage, for his love for the poor and his witness of solidarity and service to others, even to the point of laying down his life."
The prelate was fatally shot March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass in the chapel of a cancer hospital where he resided in San Salvador. Pope Francis signed the decree recognizing Archbishop Romero as a martyr Feb. 3 because he was killed "in hatred of the faith." This meant there was no need to prove miracles for his beatification, which will take place in San Salvador May 23 in a ceremony. This will move him a step closer to sainthood.
Although Archbishop Gomez described Archbishop Romero as a martyr, he said he is not being beatified because of the way he died but "because of the way he lived" which he called "a shining example to all of us."
He said the Salvadoran archbishop's "life was a journey that he walked in the company of his people and he served his people with a pastor's love, with a father's love."
"Archbishop Romero was pastor of a people living in desperate poverty and radical inequality. He lived in a time of terror and repression, when a new word was introduced into the ordinary vocabulary of the people -- desaparecido -- 'the disappeared.'"
"He walked with his people during this dark time of sorrow and fear living and working alongside this people, sharing in their struggles," Archbishop Gomez said.
That witness, he added, "reminds us that the Catholic Church, in every time and every place is always a pilgrim church, always following the way of Jesus, always accompanying God's people."
He said Archbishop Romero preached "nonviolence and reconciliation in a time of hate and vengeance. He spoke out against every form of violence, every violation of the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person."
Archbishop Gomez said that Archbishop Romero "discovered the face of Jesus Christ" when he looked into the faces of the poor and those who were tortured and mistreated and the faces of children who had nothing to eat.
"Each one of us is called to follow Jesus in our own way and to reach out to our neighbors in need. Each one of us is called to seek the face of God in the face of the poor, the immigrant, the prisoner, the sick, the hungry, the lonely," he added.
The archbishop urged the congregation to go forward in the memory of Archbishop Romero.
"May the seeds he planted with his life continue to bear fruit in our hearts and in the church," he said.