On May 23, 2015, Pope Francis beatified martyred Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero 35 years after his assassination on March 24, 1980 by high ranking Salvadoran military officials. A massive celebration was held in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador and celebrated simultaneously in cities around the world. As hundreds of priests, religious, political and financial figures occupied tents sheltering them from the intense heat beating down on plaza Salvador del Mundo, thousands of pious people from El Salvador and international visitors scorched as they witnessed the religious ceremony on huge broadcast screens placed around the plaza.
The night before the massive event attended by an estimated 300,000 people; a modest but strong group gathered outside a smaller plaza until 5:30am to celebrate what they considered to be the true ministry of Romero, a message for the poor and oppressed to fight for justice and peace. The event, organized by Comunidades Eclesiales de Base (CEBs); El Salvador’s non-traditional Catholic Grassroots Churches, included community presentations, dances, speeches, music and reflections. The constant downpour of rain did not deter the crowds from coming, growing and enjoying themselves.
Though Romero was not the first nor the last of the religious leaders to be martyred for speaking out against the repressive military controlled government of El Salvador during the 80s and 90s, he is one of the most prolific in his public disgust and outrage towards the powers that generated and sustained a 12 year civil war where hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans lost their lives, were disappeared or displaced.
The beatification event sparked substantial controversy throughout the region not only because of the amount of time if took to canonize the obvious martyr and the commercialism surrounding the event, but also because of the oppositional movement that still exists to this day in regarding his ministry and the elevation to sainthood. Three Salvadoran ambassadors to the Vatican, numerous Parrish leaders, military officials and ex-presidents have been actively speaking out against the process for years by claiming Romero was solely a political figure but Pope Francis saw through this calling him one of the “best sons of the church.”
“Your people have already made you a saint,” is a proclamation that adorns many churches, homes and hearts of Salvadorans who believe Romero entered heaven the moment he gave his life for the truth.
– “Thank you Pope Francisco for dignifying the Martyr and Prophet Monsignor Romero.”