Oscar Romero, martyr, Salvadoran archbishop, and former director of Pontifical Mission Societies, canonised

Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, the former Archbishop of San Salvador, who was assassinated in March 1980, was finally canonised over the weekend during a ceremony in the Vatican.

Over 60,000 people, including 5,000 Salvadorans, gathered in St Peter’s Square for the historic Mass, in which Pope Francis conferred sainthood upon Romero, Pope Paul VI and five others.

Monsignor Romero presided over El Salvador’s capital archdiocese during one of its most turbulent and violent periods preceding the 12-year civil war that escalated after his murder.

He was the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, of which Catholic Mission is the Australian agency, from 1974-79.

‘Archbishop Romero was a shining example of fidelity to the mission of the church to bandage those wounded and promote justice and peace,’ said Catholic Mission National Director Father Brian Lucas.

‘His martyrdom,’ he said, ‘captured world attention and the movie that was made of his life, directed by John Duigan and starring Raul Julia and Richard Jordan, is a permanent testimony of Romero’s legacy.’

The Salvadoran-born Romero was outspoken on issues of poverty, social justice, violence and political assassinations, which grew increasingly common in the final years of his life. He criticised both sides of the civil conflict in his country, also openly pleading with then-US president Jimmy Carter to suspend US military aid to the Salvadoran regime.

On March 23, 1980, having survived an attempted bombing at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in San Salvador, Archbishop Romero gave his final homily, which he used to decry the violence in the strongest terms.

‘In the name of God and of this suffering people … I ask you, I beg you, I command you in the name of God, remove the repression!’ was his impassioned plea.

The following day, Monsignor Oscar Romero was shot and killed by an assassin’s bullet at approximately 6.25pm as he celebrated mass in the chapel of the Divine Providence Hospital in the centre of the capital.

Saint Oscar Romero “left the security of the world, even his own safety, in order to give his life according to the Gospel, close to the poor and to his people, with a heart drawn to Jesus and his brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis said in his homily Sunday.

‘Let us ask ourselves where we are in our story of love with God. Do we content ourselves with a few commandments or do we follow Jesus as lovers, really prepared to leave behind something for him?’ the Pope asked.

The words are reminiscent of Pope Francis’ message for World Mission Sunday in which he said, “Every man and woman is a mission; that is the reason for our life on this earth.” It formed the theme of Catholic Mission’s World Mission Appeal in 2018, “You Are Mission”.

For decades, Monsignor Romero was considered by many Catholics as the unofficial patron saint of El Salvador and of the entire Americas. He was declared a martyr and beatified in 2015, the final step before sainthood, which was granted last Sunday in Rome.

The momentous occasion comes in the wake of the tragic death of a 19-year-old seminarian in Cameroon, allegedly killed by soldiers outside a church on October 4.

‘Tragically, there are still modern-day martyrs,’ said Fr Lucas. ‘The work of bringing peace to our world is ongoing, and we pray for all who are leading those efforts.’

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