San Salvador, Oct 11 (IANS) Oscar Romero, the Salvadoran priest who championed social justice for the poor and dispossessed, will be proclaimed a saint by Pope Francis on Sunday, almost four decades after he was assassinated by a right-wing death squad.
“Oscar Romero is revered in his native El Salvador. He ranks alongside the likes of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi as one of the most remarkable figures of the 20th century,” the Guardian quoted Clare Dixon, head of the Catholic aid agency Cafod’s Latin America region, as saying on Wednesday.
“His canonisation will give Romero the wider recognition he so richly deserves. He denounced the violence which was tearing his country apart, he spoke out against oppression, and stood against injustice alongside people living in poverty.”
The former archbishop of San Salvador, who was closely associated with the Latin American liberation theology movement of the 1960s and 70s, will be canonised along with six others at a ceremony in Rome’s St Peter’s Square.
For years, conservatives within the church sought to block Romero’s canonisation because of his association with liberation theology, a movement whose followers argued that it was not enough for the church to empathise with and care for the poor.
Francis began the process of declaring Romero a saint soon after becoming pope.
About 250,000 people attended Romero’s beatification ceremony – the penultimate step towards becoming a saint – in San Salvador in May 2015.
Romero was shot through the heart by a sniper while celebrating mass in a hospital chapel on March 24, 1980, a day after he had called on the military to stop killing innocent civilians in El Salvador, the Guardian reported.
Numerous death threats had been made against him.
At his funeral, the army opened fire, killing dozens of mourners in a crowd of more than 100,000.
His murder came at the start of a 12-year civil war, in which more than 75,000 people were killed and thousands disappeared.