Saturday, Oct. 18, 2008

Archbishop Oscar Romero

Dates: 1917-1980
Status of Cause: Servant of God (precedes Venerable)
Prognosis: Eventually.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI said Romero, the late archbishop of San Salvador, should be beatified, but then the pontiff quickly had the remark expunged from the record: Romero's cause remains delicate. Initially a conventional churchman, he came to preach powerfully for social justice and against the right-wing death squads that were terrorizing El Salvador. He was shot through the heart on March 24, 1980 while celebrating Mass in San Salvador. "Romero fits the classic definition of a martyr," says My Life with the Saints author Fr. James Martin; "But even without that he was the great apostle of the poor." Pope John Paul II, who offered Romero scant support in life because he associated the archbishop with the leftist current in the Latin American Church, waited 16 years after his death before facilitating his cause. Benedict seems slightly more willing. Even so, Catholicism would be playing catch-up: the Church of England has already assigned March 24 as Romero's Holy Day.

David Van Biema