The Vatican has announced that Pope Bl. Paul VI and Archbishop Bl. Oscar Romero will be canonized after the recognition of miracles attributed to their intercession.
Bl. Paul VI was pope from 1963 to 1978. He is best known for shepherding the Second Vatican Council, called together and opened by his predecessor, Pope St. John XXIII, who died a few months after the first session of the Council was completed. Bl. Paul VI is also known for his promulgation of the encyclical Humanae vitae in 1968, which repeated the Church’s centuries-old condemnation of artificial contraception as well as prophesied the consequences of the sexual revolution, much of which has come true.
Besides these two accomplishments, Bl. Paul VI was also the first pontiff to visit the United States, speaking before the UN General Assembly in New York City on October 4, 1965. It was in that speech that he famously cried, “No more war, war never again.” Bl. Paul VI also promulgated two other documents for which he became well known and respected, including the encyclical Populorum progressio, 1967, which addresses economic development, insisting that the economy should serve all people and not only the few. Bl. Paul VI considered matters such as just wages, unions, working conditions, and trade. It is a very progressive document, in that it recognizes the primacy of the dignity of persons over economic systems and has a great deal to say about the rights of workers. The other document was the apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi of 1975, in which Bl. Paul VI said the work of evangelization belonged to all believers, not just priests and religious. It is widely regarded as having initiated the New Evangelization.
Archbishop Oscar Romero served as archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador from 1977 to 1980. Bl. Oscar Romero was martyred on March 24, 1980 as he celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Hospital of Divine Providence in San Salvador. No one was ever convicted of the murder, but the Truth Commission for El Salvador, created by the United Nations, determined that those who assassinated Bl. Romero were working under the orders of right-wing extremist and death squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson.
Bl. Romero is a hero in Latin America. During his lifetime, he was recognized as a champion of the “preferential option for the poor” and of the politically marginalized. Hailed by proponents of Liberation Theology, Bl. Romero’s personal secretary said he was actually not interested or inspired by Liberation Theology. What inspired him, instead, was the teaching of the Church toward a personal encounter with Jesus. He was an admirer of St. Josemaria Escriva and found inspiration in the spirituality of Opus Dei, founded by St. Escriva.
In 1977, the same year he was given the post of Archbishop of San Salvador, Bl. Romero’s good friend, Fr. Rutilio Grande, SJ, was assassinated. Fr. Grande had worked with the poor in creating self-reliance groups and was seen as a threat to the government. Bl. Romero was profoundly impacted by his friend’s death, which inspired in him an activism that had been absent in his previous years.
Bl. Romero began speaking out against social injustices, and against government practices of political assassination, torture, and other human rights abuses. He wrote to President Jimmy Carter, asking that the United States stop sending military aid to the government during the Salvadoran Civil War, insisting that such would, “undoubtedly sharpen the injustice and the political repression inflicted on the organized people, whose struggle has often been for their most basic human rights.” Carter ignored Bl. Romero’s request and the US continued sending military aid.
In a speech given to the Catholic University in Louvain, Belgium in Febrary, 1980, about six weeks prior to his assassination, Bl. Romero described the persecution of the Church by the right-wing government:
“In less than three years, more than fifty priests have been attacked, threatened, calumniated. Six are already martyrs — they were murdered. Some have been tortured and others expelled. Nuns have also been persecuted. The archdiocesan radio station and educational institutions that are Catholic or of a Christian inspiration have been attacked, threatened, intimidated, even bombed. Several parish communities have been raided. If all this has happened to persons who are the most evident representatives of the Church, you can guess what has happened to ordinary Christians, to the campesinos, catechists, lay ministers, and to the ecclesial base communities. There have been threats, arrests, tortures, murders, numbering in the hundreds of thousands …”
Bl. Romero attributed to persecution the Church suffered at the hands of the government to her work for the poor in El Salvador. In 2015, Pope Francis declared Bl. Romero a martyr.
Bl. Paul VI and Abp. Bl. Oscar Romero were close. Bl. Romero found inspiration in Bl. Paul VI’s leadership, and Bl. Paul VI supported Bl. Romero’s work for the poor in his country.
The Vatican has announced that Bl. Paul VI will be canonized at the end of the Synod of Bishops in October of this year. Bl. Romero could be canonized with him, or he may be canonized at the World Youth Day, to be held in Panama in January of next year. It is understood that the bishops of Latin America prefer that he be canonized at the Panama World Youth Day.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.