Blog di FORMAZIONE PERMANENTE MISSIONARIA – Uno sguardo missionario sulla Vita, il Mondo e la Chiesa MISSIONARY ONGOING FORMATION – A missionary look on the life of the world and the church
Time has stopped in the small chapel of Divine Providence. You can almost hear the explosive sound of the bullet hitting Mgr. Romero just a couple of centimetres above the right hand side pocket of the shirt he was wearing during the Vesper service. The single explosive bullet broke into hundreds of tiny fragments that punctured the skin like pin pricks. The priest’s brother, Mamerto, who was one of the first to rush to hospital, spoke of arenilla, lots of tiny pin-pricks like sea sand. The blood-stained shirt that Romero was wearing at the time is still there laid out like a relic in the museum centre that was opened along the path leading up to the hospital for palliative care, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in January 2016. (Today), Saturday 23, the garment will be placed on an altar set up in the Salvador del Mundo square, where the templete, a small temple or shrine, will be, and will be on show for worship according to the programme. The nuns who bent over the archbishop’s dying body on that fateful day, are no longer. The images of the expressions on their pain-filled faces, looking shocked and unable to believe what had just happened, like virgins at the foot of the cross, reached all corners of the world. The last of them, Mr. Lucita, died in May last year. Her motto was “Dios proveerá”, which roughly translates as: “God will take care of things”. And God did. He inspired those who decided to begin a cause for beatification, first and foremost Romero’s successor after his death, Rivera y Damas who was forgotten so soon. Romero’s rocky road to beatification will come to an end tomorrow at around 11, when Cardinal Angelo Amato will read out a brief biography, followed by the Pope’s letter.
The seminary of San José de la Montaña, the Catholic radio station and weekly newspaper Orientación – which Romero was in charge of for one year (from 1972 to 1973) – is just a few minutes walk away from the square where the ceremony will take place. Today, it is run by Mgr. Jesús Delgado, formerly Romero’s secretary and Postulator for the diocesan phase of his cause. The special issue on his beatification is ready. The cover shows a slightly stern-looking Romero, alongside a smiling Francis and next to him, the text of the Apostolic Letter signed by the Pope with the beatification formula: “We, welcoming the desire of Our Brother, José Luis Escobar Alas , Archbishop of San Salvador in America, and of many other Brothers in the Episcopate and of many of the faithful, after having had the review of Congregation of the Causes of the Saints, with Our Apostolic Authority we grant that the Venerable Servant of God, OSCAR ARNULFO ROMERO GALDÁMEZ, Bishop and martyr, pastor according to the heart of Christ, evangelizer and father of the poor, heroic witness of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of justice, brotherhood and peace, from now on will be called Blessed and that his feast be celebrated.”
The reconstruction of the whole process that led to his beatification will be given by Gregorio Rosa Chavez, Auxiliary Bishop of San Salvador, whose past is closely linked to Romero. An eye witness, as he defined himself, to “a path filled with obstacles, that began in 1990, when Mgr. Arturo Rivera Damas announced his intention to begin the canonization process, on the 10th anniversary of his predecessor’s martyrdom.” Said process formally began four years later, in 1994, headed by Jesús Delgado and Rafael Urrutia. After Rivera y Damas died unexpectedly on 26 November 1994, it was the turn of his successor, Fernando Sáenz Lacalle, to take over. Gregorio Rosa Chavez recalls the touching ceremony on 1 November 1996, when Mgr. Saenz officially concluded the diocesan process and sent all the documentation to Rome.” The Roman phase of the cause then began: “an interminable via cruces” as Rosa Chavez put it, “marked by interruptions”. The “four-Pope saint”, as his Italian Postulator, Vincenzo Paglia called him, referring to Romero’s four meetings with Paul VI in 1978, then with John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. And Francis took the final steps to make the beatification happen.
Orientación (Year 63, No. 5861) is not out yet; mysteriously, a meagre number of copies, just 4.000, have already been printed. This figure is nothing compared to the number of copies that were being printed back in the 1980s, but newspapers are a thing of the past. Orientación offers a photographic image of the event: “Yesterday El Salvador was witness to a global celebration: 1300 priests, a hundred or so bishops and a dozen or so cardinals…” Emphasis is placed on the “American” and continental dimension of the event.
On the eve of the beatification ceremony, José Luís Escobar Alas, Romero’s successor and President of El Salvador’s Bishops’ Conference, shares his thoughts with the country’s main national newspaper, La Prensa Grafica. He is not one to exaggerate and his sense of moderation, which had a positive effect in the final stage of the beatification process, is often seen as a shortcoming. Escobar Alas, 7th Archbishop of San Salvador, sees Romero’s beatification as a watershed moment: “before and after moment for the Church in Latin America, in El Salvador and in the world.” He describes the “after” bit, as a time when the Church becomes “closer to the people, more approachable, more inclined to serve, more committed to justice for the benefit of the poor.” He then hits readers with four bits of news on the post-beatification phase, which are anything but “moderate”.
The Church will call for the case to be re-opened and the guilty brought to justice and punished after individual responsibilities are brought to light. This had not been put in such firm terms before and was immediately echoed by the historic Oficina de Tutela Legal (Office of Legal Guardians of the Archdiocese), which Romero had launched. On the eve of his beatification, the Office has called for the suspension of the amnesty law approved in 1993 regarding individuals who had an involvement in the civil war. And this is not all. José Luís Escobar Alas announced that work will begin immediately on Romero’s canonization cause. Instances of miracles witnessed by invoking Romero’s name have already been reported to the Commission in charge of collecting such information and there are two instances in particular that will be looked into further: the instance involving a 20-year-old Salvadoran living in Milan who fell from the 10th floor of a building and another involving a nun who was inexplicably healed. Most importantly, the Salvadoran prelate points to Romero’s beatification as a precedent that opens the way for many other cases. “More than 500 are being examined,” says Escobar Alas. Among the causes he said he considered most likely to follow through, are those of Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit who was killed three years before Romero, on 12 March 1977, and the cause of the Jesuits of Central American University, who were murdered on 16 November 1989.
Alver Metalli, San Salvador