Archbishop Romero Recognized As Martyr

by Libbie Steiner


On January 8, 2015, a Vatican commission officially declared that Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated as a martyr for the Catholic faith. This is seen as an important step on the road towards sainthood. Romero was murdered in 1980 for his vocal criticism of human rights violations committed by the Salvadoran government. An Italian daily newspaper, Avvenire, was the first to report on the commission’s decision to recognize his martyrdom.

Archbishop Oscar Romero served as Archbishop of San Salvador during the 1977-1980 period. He became an outspoken critic of the Salvadoran regime’s death squad executions, torture and prolonged imprisonment, and disappearances. He was often called the voice of the people of El Salvador, giving stirring sermons that were frequently broadcast via radio to the far reaches of the rural areas of the country condemning the horrific violence. Many Latin American Catholics look to Romero as an example of the struggle for peace and justice in unjust and oppressive societies. The day before he was assassinated, Archbishop Oscar Romero gave a sermon urging Salvadoran soldiers to refuse to carry out government policies of terror and violence. Romero was killed while saying Mass on March 24, 1980.


The announcement of his martyrdom means that the Vatican now recognizes that Romero’s death was in odium fidei, meaning “in hatred of the faith” in Latin. The Archbishop’s cause for canonization was first opened up in 1993, but it stalled with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2000-2005. Following the election of Pope Francis in March 2013, the Holy Father met with Archbishop Vicenzo Paglia, the official promoter of the cause of Romero’s sainthood. Now, with the recognition of martyrdom, Romero is officially on the path to beatification and canonization. In order to become beatified, it usually needs to be proven that the deceased person has caused a miracle or multiple miracles, but people declared to be martyrs of the faith do not need to have caused miracles.


On August 18, 2014, Pope Francis was flying to South Korea and spoke about his opinion concerning the possible canonization of Archbishop Oscar Romero. The Holy Father said, “for me Romero is a man of God, but the process has to be followed, and the Lord, too, has to give his sign… If he wants to do it, he will do it.”


According to Avvenire, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted unanimously to declare Romero a martyr of the faith. Though there has been some opposition from critics of Romero in the past, saying that he was murdered more because of politics than because of religion and should not be considered a martyr, the Vatican has cast its vote regarding their position on this subject.


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