(CNS) A panel of theologians advising the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes voted unanimously to recognize the late Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as a martyr, according to the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference. The panel declared Jan. 8 that the archbishop had been killed “in hatred for the faith,” Avvenire reported Jan. 9. The decision is a key step in the archbishop’s cause, following an extended debate over whether he was killed for political reasons or for his faith. The next step in the process lies with the cardinals and bishops who sit on the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, who will vote on whether to advise the pope to issue a decree of beatification. A miracle is not needed for beatification of a martyr, though a miracle is ordinarily needed for his or her canonization as saint. Archbishop Romero, an outspoken advocate for the poor, was shot and killed March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass in a hospital in San Salvador during his country’s civil war. His sainthood cause was opened at the Vatican in 1993.
(CNA/EWTN News) According to Italy’s daily Catholic newspaper, the commission of theologians at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has recognized the 1980 assassination of Salvadoran archbishop Oscar Romero as a martyrdom.
“According to canonical practice, all that remains for the beatification is the judgement of the commission of bishops and cardinals and finally the approbation of the Pope, concluding the procedure that would soon lead to beatification” Avvenire’s Stefania Falasca wrote Jan. 8.
The theologians unanimously approved a finding that the archbishop was killed for hatred of the faith, and thus that his death was a martyrdom.
Oscar Romero y Galdamez was Archbishop of San Salvador from 1977 until March 24, 1980, when he was shot while saying Mass. He was a vocal critic of the human rights abuses of the repressive Salvadoran government, and he spoke out on behalf of the poor and the victims of the government.
No one has been prosecuted for his assassination, but right-wing death squads are suspected.
Archbishop Romero’s cause of canonization was opened in 1993, but was reportedly held up in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2000 to 2005; as part of the inquiry in a cause of sainthood, the doctrinal dicastery is charged with reviewing the subject’s writings to ensure they are free of error.
Both Pope Francis and Benedict XVI hold Archbishop Romero in high regard.
En route to Brazil on May 9, 2007, Benedict told journalists that the Salvadoran “was certainly an important witness of the faith, a man of great Christian virtue who worked for peace and against the dictatorship, and was assassinated while celebrating Mass. Consequently, his death was truly ‘credible’, a witness of faith.”
“The problem,” he continued, “was that a political party wrongly wished to use him as their badge, as an emblematic figure. How can we shed light on his person in the right way and protect it from these attempts to exploit it?”
Archbishop Romero has been held up particularly by supporters of Marxism, because of his advocacy for the poor and his opposition to the Salvadoran military government.
Benedict continued: “This is the problem. It is under examination and I await confidently what the Congregation for the Causes of Saints will have to say on the matter.”
During his Jan. 7 General Audience address, Pope Francis quoted Archbishop Romero’s saying that mothers experience a “martyrdom of motherhood,” and went on to quote extensively from one of the archbishop’s homilies, for the funeral of a priest assassinated by death squads.
And while on his flight to South Korea on Aug. 18, 2014, Pope Francis said it is “very important” to “quickly” move forward Archbishop Romero’s cause, adding that “for me Romero is a man of God, but the process has to be followed, and the Lord too has to give his sign… If he wants to do it, he will do it.”
“What I would like is a clarification about martyrdom in odium fidei, whether it can occur either for having confessed the Creed or for having done the works which Jesus commands with regard to one’s neighbour. And this is a task for the theologians. They are studying it.”
With the latest news from the theologians of the congregations for saints’ causes, it seems the theologians have made the clarification they were asked for.