UK Catholic aid agency, CAFOD, who worked with Archbishop Oscar Romero, will join millions of Catholics to celebrate his canonisation in Rome today, on Sunday 14th October.
Assassinated while celebrating Mass in El Salvador, Archbishop Oscar Romero, a defender of the poor and campaigner for peace, will be declared El Salvador’s first saint later today.
Clare Dixon, CAFOD’s Head of Region for Latin America, who supported Romero’s church in the 1970s, said: “Oscar Romero is revered in his native El Salvador. He ranks alongside the likes of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi as one of the most remarkable figures of the 20th century.
“His canonisation will give Romero the wider recognition he so richly deserves – he denounced the violence which was tearing his country apart, he spoke out against oppression, and stood against injustice alongside people living in poverty.”
During his time as Archbishop, Romero became known as the “voice of the voiceless”, after his sermons – which were broadcast across the country via his radio station – he spoke out against the military regime. In his last sermon, Romero called on the National Guard and the police to end the violence, saying: “Brothers, you are killing your fellow countrymen. No soldier has to obey an order to kill. In the name of God and in the name of the suffering people I implore you, I beg, I order you, stop the repression!”
A day later, on 24th March 1980, Oscar Romero was assassinated while celebrating Mass.
In May 2015, Romero was declared “Blessed” by Pope Francis, in recognition of his death as a martyr, faithful to the Church’s teaching. His beatification ceremony in El Salvador drew unprecedented crowds.
“Romero didn’t simply talk about the need to love your neighbour, but courageously denounced the violence and named the injustices. He showed his solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, and called for justice and freedom,” said Ms Dixon.
Today, El Salvador is still plagued by the legacy of the civil war. Society is deeply polarised, beset by organised crime – in 2016, there were over 5,200 murders – and endemic poverty.
Ms Dixon hopes that the celebration of Romero’s sainthood will be an inspiration to many in Latin America and worldwide who risk their lives championing the poor and marginalised in their communities.
“I hope that Romero’s canonisation will be a source of unity and reconciliation not only within El Salvador but across our divided world.”
Picture: Procession and candlelight vigil, Archbishop Oscar Romero’s 37th anniversary. (Louise Norton/CAFOD).