Blessed Oscar Romero will, this Sunday 14th October, be canonised in Rome alongside Pope Paul VI and four others.
This canonization takes places during the Synod of Bishops which is currently taking place on the topic of young people, faith and vocational discernment.
Oscar Romero was fatally shot whilst saying mass in El Salvador on 24th March 1980. Local violence had increased during the 1970’s and the day before he was killed, Romero ordered the army to stop killing innocent people:
“In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering, people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I beg you, I implore you, I order you, in the name of God, stop the repression!”
Director of Jesuit Missions, Paul Chitnis, says
“I remember Archbishop Romero’s death clearly. The phone went one morning at my parents’ home and my uncle, who knew him, simply said: “They’ve killed him.” My uncle, Lord Chitnis, had told us about Romero’s courage in speaking out against the appalling injustice which existed in his country.
In talking to people who knew the Archbishop, on my own visits to El Salvador, I find that it is his profound courage and essential simplicity which are an inspiration. He was a man of, and for, the people especially the poorest. He knew that his defence of the poor and condemnation of those who persecuted them would end in his death. But Romero’s deep love of God cannot be separated from his commitment to the poor and to working for justice.”
During the long build up to the announcement of Romero’s canonization, Jesuit Missions supported the issuing of documents to be sent to Rome as evidence for his sainthood. In 2015 Pope Francis announced that Oscar Romero was a martyr and he was beatified in a large ceremony in El Salvador which drew crowds of up to 250, 000. In 2018, the Pope approved a miracle made by Oscar Romero, meaning his canonisation could take place.
On 24th March 2017, which will be Blessed Romero’s feast day, a Jesuit funded mosaic mural was unveiled in El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador, celebrating the legacy of Blessed Oscar Romero’s life.
This week the Jesuit parish of St Ignatius in Stamford Hill is holding a novena of intercession to Blessed Oscar Romero with prayers and brief reflections at every mass. The novena opened with a mass on Friday 5th October celebrated by Bishop John Sherrington who reflected on his life and spoke of the friendship between him and Fr Rutilio Grande SJ who was murdered on 12th March 1977 for speaking out “against the exploiter and the powerful who oppressed the poor.” The killing of Fr Rutilio occurred less than three weeks after Oscar Romero was named Archbishop of San Salvador. Commemorating this friendship, ‘The Great Amen’, a new painting by Peter Bridgman was unveiled and blessed during the mass at St Ignatius and has been installed in the church.
Oscar Romero’s legacy is as relevant today as it was nearly forty years ago when he was killed. Paul reflects, “As the Church canonises this great man, we can look to his example and believe that speaking up for the defence of justice whether for the poor, the environment or the many other situations in which injustice reigns, is part of our Christian duty.”