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Beatification of Archbishop Óscar Romero hailed by ecumenical leaders

Beatification of Archbishop Óscar Romero hailed by ecumenical leaders

© Vatican News

28 May 2015

Leaders of churches and ecumenical organizations have expressed respect and appreciation following the beatification of Archbishop Óscar Romero on Sunday 24 May. In the Roman Catholic Church, beatification is a significant step in the process leading to canonization as a saint. Romero was murdered while presiding at Mass in San Salvador on 24 March 1980. He had been archbishop of the capital of El Salvador for three years.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, Roman Catholic prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, has been widely quoted as saying, "Romero, from heaven, wants every Salvadoran to walk the path of peace and justice."

The beatification of Romero encouraged Pastor Angel Peiró, from the Church of the Disciples of Christ in Argentina, to share his memories of ecumenical participation in Romero’s funeral at San Salvador’s cathedral.

Peiró attended the ceremony on 30 May 1980 alongside WCC staff member Rev. Charles Harper and seminal Latin American liberation theologian Father Gustavo Gutierrez. Peiró was responsible for reading the gospel lesson at that ceremony.

“The spirit of the ceremony was truly ecumenical, as was the spirit of our work in Central America during those years,” recalled Peiró.

“Just at the time I was reading the gospel, snipers stationed in the buildings around the square opened fire on the audience outside the cathedral. They were shooting, and the people started running desperately for shelter. Later we learned that 35 people died that day. And there were many wounded,” he added.

In a letter sent to H.E. Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit expressed the joy experienced by Christians of many traditions at the beatification of Monsignor Óscar Romero.

“Romero has been a martyr for justice and peace”, wrote Tveit. “In the middle of violence in El Salvador, he was an image of Christ, the good Shepherd, as His Holiness Pope Francis recalled in his letter on occasion of the beatification.”

The WCC general secretary also stressed that Romero, “through his ministry, took care and loved especially the poorest and the victims of violence in his country.” Tveit suggested that Romero’s fearless service to the point of death is “an example and inspiration not only for El Salvador, and the Church in this country, but for all Christians worldwide.”

In his letter to the Vatican official, the WCC general secretary stated that he hopes “the beatification contributes to the healing of wounds of the past also ecumenically.  The ecumenical movement’s work for justice, peace and reconciliation is greatly encouraged by his testimony.”

Considered as both a prophet and a martyr in Latin America, Romero left an important legacy of ecumenical social engagement in the region. His beatification also was hailed by former WCC president Bishop Federico Pagura from the Evangelical Methodist Church of Argentina.

In a letter sent on 24 May to the current Roman Catholic bishop of El Salvador, Monsignor José Luis Escobar Salas, Pagura expressed thankfulness for the “vision and strength of Pope Francis and his significant gestures that renew our faith, our hope and our love in the new generation that rises and grows in these critical and challenging times.”

“We pray strongly that in this new Latin American and Caribbean awakening he will make the words of Monsignor Romero a reality and will continue seeding and planting in this new ecumenical Pentecost blowing among us,” Pagura concluded.

Letter to Cardinal Koch Beatification Monsignor Romero

Testimony of Rev. Angel Vicente Peiró