This is promising and not at all surprising. Catholic News Service’s Cindy Wooden is reporting today some interesting comments made by the official promoter of the sainthood cause of the late Archbishop Oscar Romero. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, having emerged just hours earlier from a meeting with Pope Francis, announced in a homily, “Today … the cause for the beatification of Archbishop Romero was unblocked.”
He didn’t elaborate further and neither did his office later in the day. So it’s unclear what the cause being “unblocked” refers to or how it was “blocked” prior to now.
By coincidence, the last time that Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the unforgettable Salvadoran pastor was on his flight to Brazil in May 2007 for his first and – up to now – only apostolic visit to a Latin American country. This time, during the traditional high-altitude meeting with journalists, a French envoy enquired about the process of Romero’s beatification, whose diocesan phase concluded in 1996. The Pope replied with a brief apologia for the slain bishop, describing him as “a great witness of the faith” and recalling his “truly incredible” death before the altar. He made no reference to the category of martyrdom, but said very clearly that the person of Romero “is worthy of beatification.” Incredibly, those words which were spoken by the Pope before dozens of cameras and dictaphones, were removed from the official version of the interview published by Vatican media.
Five years since that astonishing textual edit, the Roman phase of the beatification process has ground to a halt. Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni is acting as postulator before the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. And at the Vatican dicastery, the position of the relator of the cause has been entrusted to the French Dominican Daniel Ols, who served the same function for the Blessed John Paul II. But the theologians and historians of the Congregation have not even begun to lay their hands on the material gathered during the diocesan phase.
Looks like Pope Francis shares Pope Benedict’s favorable impression of Romero, but has the will to see to it that the cause’s time of languishing come to an end. I interpret Paglia’s comments to mean that the Pope told Paglia that Romero’s cause has waited too long. It’s time to move things along.
Why canonize Romero? Because he offers a luminous modernday witness to the solidarity of God with people living in poverty and the vocation of the Church to share that solidarity, a solidarity that Romero himself shared unto death.