Pope Benedict, not Francis, unblocked Romero sainthood case

The monsignor who spearheaded the saint-making process for El Salvador's slain Archbishop Oscar Romero said on Wednesday it was Pope Benedict XVI and not Pope Francis who removed the final hurdle in the tortured, 35-year process.

PTI| Updated: Feb 04, 2015, 22:40 PM IST

Vatican City: The monsignor who spearheaded the saint-making process for El Salvador's slain Archbishop Oscar Romero said on Wednesday it was Pope Benedict XVI and not Pope Francis who removed the final hurdle in the tortured, 35-year process.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia told reporters Benedict "gave the green light." Speaking a day after Francis declared that Romero died as a martyr for the faith, Paglia said Romero's beatification would likely be within a few months in San Salvador.

Paglia says Benedict told him on Dec 20, 2012, the case had passed from the Vatican's doctrine office, where it had been held up for years over concerns about Romero's orthodoxy, to the saint-making office.

From there it proceeded quickly, taking a mere two years for theologians, and then a committee of cardinals and bishops, to agree unanimously that Romero died as a martyr out of hatred for the faith.

Romero was gunned down on March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass in a hospital chapel in San Salvador. He had spoken out against repression by the army at the beginning of El Salvador's 1980-1992 civil war between the right-wing government and leftistn rebels, a conflict that killed nearly 75,000 people.

Paglia acknowledged some deep opposition to Romero's cause from within the church, both in Latin America and in the Vatican.

Romero's primary opponent was the late Colombian Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, a senior Vatican official famous for staunchly conservative views on abortion and sex.

Lopez Trujillo, who died in 2008, led the Latin American churchmen who feared that beatifying Romero would be akin to beatifying liberation theology, the Catholic movement that holds that Jesus' teachings require followers to fight for social and economic justice. The conservative right in Latin America was deeply opposed to the movement.

"It's clear that the figure of Romero required time, because for he who wasn't in favor or who had robust prejudices against it had to be helped to understand that he was wrong. But, as we can see today, the truth has had its victory," Paglia said.