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Pope Francis

Reformist Pope Paul VI and slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero to be made saints

Romero’s case had been held up for years, primarily due to opposition from conservative Latin American churchmen who feared his perceived association with liberation theology

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2018, 7:35pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2018, 9:02pm

Pope Francis has cleared the way for reformist slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero to be made a saint along with reformist Pope Paul VI.

The Vatican announced on Wednesday, during a meeting with the head of the Vatican’s saint-making office, Francis had approved a decree confirming a miracle attributed to Romero’s intercession. The miracle attributed to Pope Paul VI paves the way for his canonisation as well.

Pope Paul VI oversaw the sweeping “Vatican II” reforms of the Catholic Church in the 1960s. Notably mass, historically celebrated in Latin, was translated into local languages and priests addressed their congregations face-on instead of facing the altar.

No date has been set for either ceremony, which Francis would be expected to celebrate.

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Romero was gunned down by right-wing death squads on March 24, 1980, as he celebrated mass in a hospital chapel. The country’s military dictatorship had vehemently opposed his preaching against the repression of the poor by the army at the start of the country’s 1980-1992 civil war.

Francis unblocked Romero’s stalled sainthood case at the start of his pontificate and declared him a martyr in 2015.

The case had been held up for years by the Vatican, primarily due to opposition from conservative Latin American churchmen who feared Romero’s perceived association with liberation theology would embolden the movement that holds that Jesus’ teachings require followers to fight for social and economic justice.

It was also delayed over related questions about whether Romero was killed out of hatred for his faith or his politics. If killed for his politics, it was argued, he couldn’t be declared a martyr of the faith.

In the end, Pope Francis decreed in 2015 that Romero was killed as a martyr out of hatred for the faith – or “in odium fidei”.

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He was beatified in San Salvador on May 24, 2015, before a quarter-million jubilant Salvadorans, and held up as model of peace and forgiveness for Francis’ home continent.

Details of the miracle that paved the way for his canonisation were not revealed, but rumours have circulated for more than a year that a possible miracle was being studied.

When Francis declared Romero a martyr, officials said the decree had confirmed the acceptance of a new understanding that martyrs can be killed, even by churchgoing Catholics, out of hatred for their Gospel-inspired work in favour of the poor and disenfranchised.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse