For immediate release: 15/05/2015
Beatification gives overdue recognition to heroic Romero, says CAFOD
The beatification of Oscar Romero on Saturday 23 May will provide overdue recognition for “one of the great heroes of the Twentieth Century”, says the aid agency CAFOD, which closely supported his work.
CAFOD Director Chris Bain said: “Oscar Romero may not be a household name in the UK, but he was one of one of great heroes of the Twentieth Century. He deserves to be commemorated alongside the likes of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi as a peacemaker who sacrificed his life standing up to injustice. I hope that his beatification will give him the wider recognition he so richly deserves.
“During three tumultuous years as Archbishop of San Salvador, Romero braved death threats time and again to denounce violence and speak out on behalf of the victims of his country’s civil war. He was a remarkable man, who was inspired by his faith to fight not just poverty but injustice, to give a voice to the voiceless.
“The reason that CAFOD staff and supporters, like millions of Catholics around the world, hold him in such high regard is obvious. He didn’t simply talk about the need to love your neighbour, but courageously denounced the violence and named the injustices that plagued his country. Here at CAFOD we have regarded him as a Saint for years, and we are delighted that the Church is taking this crucial step towards recognising him as one.”
Oscar Romero was the Archbishop of San Salvador from 1977 until he was assassinated in 1980. He was initially regarded as a conservative choice, but he became increasingly outspoken about human rights violations in El Salvador – particularly after the murder of his close friend Father Rutilio Grande. After repeatedly condemning poverty and injustice, he was shot dead while celebrating Mass on 24 March 1980.
35 years later, Archbishop Romero will be beatified – or declared “Blessed” – on 23 May as a prelude to being made a Saint.
CAFOD has a long history of working with Archbishop Romero and promoting his legacy. In the 1970s, CAFOD supported Romero’s famous radio broadcasts, which – at a time when the press was heavily censored – were often the only means by which people in El Salvador knew the truth about the atrocities occurring in their country. When Romero’s radio station was blown up, CAFOD provided funding to rebuild it.
After Romero was martyred, the aid agency’s staff successfully petitioned Lambeth Council to rename the Brixton street where their office was located ‘Romero Close’. And when CAFOD moved to a new office in 2009, it was named ‘Romero House’.
Today, CAFOD continues to work in El Salvador, helping farmers to improve their crops, assisting communities in reducing the risk of disasters, supporting people living with HIV, building peace, defending human rights and trying to create a more just society.
Chris Bain said: “I think Archbishop Romero would be pleased to see some of what is happening in El Salvador today. In 2013, one socially-minded government peacefully succeeded another, and they are consciously trying to implement policies that Romero would approve of: fiscal reform, free school uniforms and books for children, funding for cooperatives, more social programmes.
“But El Salvador remains a country in the grip of inequality, and the legacy of the civil war continues to cause divisions. All around the world hundreds of millions of people live in poverty or under oppressive regimes. The world as a whole desperately needs more figures like Romero – leaders with the courage and faith to stand up for the poor against injustice.”
CAFOD spokespeople are available for interview in London and San Salvador, where the beatification will take place. Video footage and photographs of Romero and of El Salvador today are also available. Please contact Nana Anto-Awuakye for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 (0)207 095 5456, +44 (0) 7799 477 541
1. CAFOD is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. www.cafod.org.uk/Nepal
2. Beatification, or declaring a person "blessed", is the necessary prelude to full sainthood. In February 2015 the Pope announced that Archbishop Romero died as a martyr, opening the path to his beatification. The Pope’s proclamation followed a vote by theologians at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints in January that Romero was killed in "hatred of the faith". Unlike other candidates for beatification, people who have been killed in hatred of the faith can be beatified without having a miracle attributed to them.
The Vatican has announced that Romero will be beatified on 23rd May 2015. Over 260,000 people are expected to attend the celebration which will take place at 10am (5pm BST) in the Plaza Divino Salvador del Mundo in San Salvador. There is no set date for Romero’s canonisation - the final stage of the process, when he will be declared a Saint.
3. During his three years as Archbishop , Oscar Romero repeatedly denounced violence and spoke out on behalf of the victims of the civil war. He defended the right of the poor to demand political change, a stance which made him a troublesome adversary for the country's rulers.
A month before he was assassinated, Romero wrote to President Jimmy Carter urging the US to stop backing the Salvadoran government and supplying it with arms and military advisers. And on the day before his assassination, he urged soldiers and police not to follow orders to kill civilians, and stop the repression. "The peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters," he preached. "When you hear a man telling you to kill, remember God's words, 'Thou shalt not kill’. In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people, whose laments rise to heaven each day more tumultuous, I beg you, I beseech you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression!"
Archbishop Romero was shot dead on 24 March 1980, aged 62, while celebrating Mass. In the ensuing decade, some 70,000 Salvadorans were killed in the civil war.
4. For information, videos, quotations and schools materials about Romero, go to www.cafod.org.uk/romero