The beatification of the slain Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, on the birthday of the church marks a watershed for the church under Francis’ stewardship.
At the start of his ministry as Bishop of Rome, Francis had expressed the desire to see the church transformed into the Church of the Poor. And on Pentecost this year, the Spirit, it would appear, is propelling the church in exactly that direction.
Some 250000 are filling the streets of the capital of El Salvador to joyously mark the final step before Romero, seen as a champion of the poor and the voiceless, is officially declared a saint by the church.
Many had already acclaimed him a saint of the Americas soon after his assassination by a death squad supported by the then US-backed regime in El Salvador, which was ruled by over a dozen wealthy oligarchs who controlled the nation’s wealth and much of its land.
These oligarchs, many of them Catholics, cultivated close ties with a handful of conservative church prelates – and they thought the church was in their pocket. But they hadn’t counted on Romero’s outspokenness following the murder of peasants and priests working among the poor.
This is the first part of the movie of his life which is worth watching:
Subsequent parts can be found by searching Youtube.
The death squads even fired into the massive 250000 crowd that turned up for Romero’s funeral in 1980, killing dozens.
And here are a few lovely songs to celebrate Romero’s legacy and his courage in speaking up for the poor, the voiceless and the disappeared:
Today, Romero has new relevance for the church and in a world teeming with billions of people who have been excluded, marginalised, oppressed or exploited while a small group of elites wallow in fabulous wealth. He made the Beatitudes come alive.
It is not God who wants the people to be poor and oppressed; it is an unjust and exploitative system that has caused the suffering and the torture – whereas God wants his people to live life to the full in his kingdom on earth.