Today in Rome, in addition to canonizing Pope Paul VI, Pope Francis will also canonize Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. Selected as archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, Romero served during a time of intense political turbulence and religious persecution. Through his homilies, radio sermons, and newspaper articles, Romero became the voice of his country’s conscience, condemning the violence and corruption that plagued his country.
Countless threats against his life didn’t deter Romero. In one homily, he said, “You can tell the people that if they succeed in killing me, I forgive and bless those who do it… A bishop will die, but the Church of God, which is the people, will never perish.” On March 24, 1980, as he was saying Mass, a lone gunman stood at the door of the chapel and fired. Romero, who was standing at the altar, was shot in the heart and died on the spot.
In his letter announcing Romero’s canonization, Pope Francis wrote, “In the beautiful land of Central America, the Lord granted his Church a zealous bishop who, loving God and serving brothers and sisters, became the image of Christ. In times of difficult coexistence, Archbishop Romero knew how to lead, defend and protect his flock… And at the moment of his death, while he celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of love and reconciliation, he received the grace to identify himself fully with the One who gave his life for his sheep.”
Oscar Romero lived out today’s readings. He chose God’s wisdom over the wealth and comfort of the world. He proclaimed the word of God in a way that cut people to the heart. And he gave everything to the poor of El Salvador. May his witness move all of us to answer the cry of the poor and downtrodden.