The canonization of "St Romero of America", whom a whole continent has venerated for some time, comes after a long and complex journey. The archbishop of San Salvador, who in his homilies denounced the military repression and violence of revolutionary groups and defended the poor and oppressed, was assassinated by a hitman on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass.
His case, however, has long been debated in the ecclesiastical world, because not everyone was convinced that his was a martyrdom: had he been killed by hatred of the faith or because he was involved in politics?
In the following years, the Salvadoran ecclesiastical hierarchies were not clear in taking up positions. Pope John Paul II himself remained rather conservative even though in 1983, during his visit to El Salvador, he went to pray on his grave, indicating that he really understood the value of the testimony of Msgr. Romero. In fact, during the Jubilee of 2000, he had his name inserted in the list of "new martyrs".
The journey towards the sainthood of Msgr. Romero first accelerated with Pope Benedict XVI, who called him "a great witness of faith". Now it is Pope Francis who completes this accelerated process. Already when he was a cardinal, he had referred to him as "a saint and a martyr" and now, history's first Latin American Pope, can canonize, after having beatified him, the first martyr archbishop of America.
The inscription in the register of saints today represents the definitive recognition of the Church towards him and his way of living the Christian life.
Card. Gregorio Rosa Chávez, his current successor in San Salvador, remembers him as a "timid man, very shy, but also a perfectionist who repeatedly indicated the conversion of the heart as the only path to reconciliation of the country."
Mons. Romero, who had experienced firsthand the suffering and had lost his friend, Father Rutilio Grande, murdered, chose to stay on the side of the oppressed and never let himself be frightened by attacks and threats.
Today, the human value of Msgr. Romero is universally recognized, indeed the UN proclaimed March 24, the date of his martyrdom, as the international day for the right to the truth about serious violations of human rights and the dignity of the victims.