By editor - 01 November, 2015
Pope Francis has denounced priests and bishops who “defamed” Archbishop Oscar Romero and were behind a campaign of calumny which delayed the Salvadoran prelate’s beatification.
The Pope made his comments during an address to 500 people including bishops, priests, religious, laity and seminarians from El Salvador who visited the Vatican on Friday to thank the Pontiff for beatifying Archbishop Romero in May 2015.
Speaking to the pilgrims, Pope Francis said Oscar Romero’s life was taken violently, while he was celebrating the Eucharist, “a supreme sacrifice of love, sealing with his blood the announcement of the Gospel”.
The Pope praised the witness of Blessed Romero, and in off the cuff comments denounced those who “defamed” the slain prelate.
He said Romero was “stoned with the hardest stone that exists in the world: the tongue.”
Archbishop Romero was gunned down by right-wing death squads while celebrating Mass in March 1980 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 left-wing rebels, a conflict that killed nearly 75,000 people.
His cause for sainthood was held up for years by the Vatican, primarily due to opposition from conservative Latin American churchmen who created fear that he was tainted with liberation theology.
In February, Pope Francis declared Archbishop Romero died as a martyr for the faith, paving the way for his beatification in May before a crowd of more than 250,000 in San Salvador.
“He was defamed, slanders, his memory despoiled, and his martyrdom continued, even by his brothers in the priesthood and the episcopate,” the Argentinian pope said on Friday.
The Pope recalled the martyrs of the past and said that today too the blood of many Christian martyrs is still being dramatically shed in the world.
But he added with the certain hope that it will bear fruit “in a rich harvest of holiness, justice, reconciliation and love for God.”
He also underlined that no one is born a martyr, saying that it is a grace that the Lord gives.
He recalled the words of Archbishop Romero himself when he said, “We must be willing to die for our faith, even if the Lord does not give us this honour.”