Papal envoy calls Blessed Romero 'martyr of hope'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rodigro Sura, EPA


SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (CNS) — Blessed Oscar Romero, the
murdered archbishop of San Salvador, is a martyr of hope, said Chilean Cardinal
Ricardo Ezzati, Pope Francis’ envoy to the celebration of the centennial of the
archbishop’s birth.

Blessed Romero “is a true martyr of hope … a great
martyr of hope,” said the Santiago cardinal. “He is so for the continent’s
poor, he is so for the people of El Salvador, he is so for the hope of our
beloved church, for all who struggle for justice, reconciliation, peace and
affectionately call him ‘St. Romero of America.'”

Cardinal Ezzati gave the homily Aug. 15 at the Salvadoran
cathedral, where people gathered for a special Mass. He said Blessed Romero’s “closeness
to the poor … led him to see, with his eyes, the injustice the peasants were suffering.”

Repeatedly interrupted by applause, the cardinal quoted a
letter from Pope Francis to the Salvadoran bishops on Blessed Romero’s
beatification in 2015: “Those who have Archbishop Romero as a friend in
faith … those who admire him, find in him the strength and encouragement to
build the people of God, to commit to a more balanced and dignified social

“Those words by Pope Francis confirm our intuition that
Blessed Romero is a saint of hope,” the cardinal added.

Shortly before he was assassinated in 1980, Blessed Romero promised
that if God accepted his martyrdom, he would forgive those who would take his
life, the Santiago cardinal said in his homily Aug. 15 at the cathedral in San

He also quoted Blessed Romero’s words shortly before he was
murdered: “Martyrdom is a grace from God which I do not believe I deserve.
But should God accept the sacrifice of my life, that my blood be the seed of
freedom, it is a signal that hope will soon be a reality. Should they kill me,
I forgive and bless them.”

Cardinal Ezzati arrived Aug. 12 in San Salvador to take part
in different activities to mark the centennial of Blessed Romero’s birth, which
included a pilgrimage,”Caminando hacia la cuna del Profeta” (“Walking
Toward the Prophet’s Birthplace”), from San Salvador to Ciudad Barrios,
the eastern city where the martyr was born Aug. 15, 1917.

Ordained April 4, 1942, in Rome, the Salvadoran religious
leader was appointed archbishop of San Salvador Feb. 23, 1977, and was gunned
down during Mass in a hospital chapel March 24, 1980, a day after a sermon in
which he called on Salvadoran soldiers to obey what he described as God’s order
and stop carrying actions of repression.

The archbishop’s March 30 funeral at the cathedral, attended
by more than 200,000 mourners, was interrupted by gunfire that left 30-50
people dead. It is widely believed direct perpetrators of the unpunished crime
were members of a paramilitary squad.

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