SAN SALVADOR — As the decree from Pope Francis authorizing the naming of Archbishop Oscar Romero as Blessed was being proclaimed by Cardinal Angelo Amato, an extraordinary sign appeared in the sky — a large, visible halo surrounded the entire sun. It appeared as if God were ratifying the naming of Romero as a blessed of the Church.
The official document signed by Pope Francis states:
“In virtue of our apostolic authority, we hereby grant the faculty whereby the venerable Servant of God Oscar Arnulfo Romero Galdamez, bishop and martyr, pastor after the heart of Christ, evangelizer and father of the poor, heroic witness of the Reign of God, a reign of justice, fraternity and peace, from this day forward is to be called blessed and his feast day observed the 24 of March, in which he was born into heaven.”
There was profound joy and pride among the 1.5 million people gathered for this historic moment as their martyred pastor was proclaimed to be among the blessed in heaven. In many forms their message was the same: he stood up for the little ones, he protected us, he nourished us, he led us forward, and he gave his life for the sheep.
In speaking with people all around the Grand Plaza where the beatification took place, it was apparent that everyone has been touched by those awful war years. Almost every family can relate a story about some type of harassment by government authorities: forced conscription into the military; a person disappearing during the night; property and land seized; schooling denied.
The same is true among the thousands of Salvadorans living in the Los Angeles area. So many are here because they had to flee their own country because of threats, intimidation and fears. While a few have returned home, most have planted new roots here in our area and have become active members of our Church and community.
One of the great ministries carried out by Archbishop Romero was through the radio. Each Sunday his homily in the cathedral was broadcast across the country. He preached hope for the people, but he also pointed out the failures of government and military leaders.
His regular radio broadcasts included Holy Hours, homilies and inspirational messages. He realized that radio was his greatest evangelization tool.
He established an Office of Justice and Peace to monitor and report on the abuses and sufferings of people across El Salvador. Every Monday, the office published lists of people killed the previous week, those who “disappeared” in the night and those injured.
These lists became invaluable for everyone to find out what happened to loved ones. But the lists also highlighted the breadth of the social unrest and fears across the country.
There is a new sense of hope and joy among the people of El Salvador, and they perceive Blessed Oscar Romero as their new and special intercessor on their behalf. But they also understand that decades of disputes, warfare and mistrust will not be resolved overnight.
May Blessed Oscar Romero pray for us!