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Beatification cause advanced for Archbishop Romero March 21, 2005

The process for the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero will soon resume, 25 years after he was slain in El Salvador, according to the postulator for that cause.

The Archbishop of San Salvador was shot and killed as he celebrated Mass in a hospital chapel on March 24, 1980. The assassination came at the height of the civil war in that country, and during the funeral of the beloved archbishop, on March 30, soldiers fired into the congregation, killing and wounding dozens of the faithful. An investigation under UN auspices determined that the Salvadoran military had ordered the prelate's death.

From the time of his appointment in 1977, Archbishop Romero had clashed frequently with the military regime governing El Saladaor at that time. He was killed soon after making an appeal to soldiers to disobey orders to kill.

Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni, Italy, who is now the postulator for the Romero cause, says that he expects soon to complete a "position" that will be presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, making the case that Archbishop Romero was a martyr for the faith. This "position" would then be studied by a panel of theologians, who in turn would submit their judgment to the prelates who serve on that Congregation. That process could take roughly six months, the postulator estimated.

The cause for Archbishop Romero's beatification was opened in 1993, in San Salvador. The process began with an examination of his writings and speeches, and testimony from his colleagues and acquaintances. The results of that investigation were conveyed to the Vatican in 1997. At that point, the process was slowed by an investigation undertaken by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

A key question, in Archbishop Romero's case, is whether the slain prelate was at odds with Church teachings, on the controversial topic of liberation theology. Bishop Paglia argues that the Salvadoran prelate, while he was an impassioned promoter of social justice, did not enter into partisan political disputes, and was not identified with liberation theology. On the other hand, he notes, "It is clear that the death squads attacks him by political reasons."

Liberation theology, which was highly influential around the time of the archbishop's death, drew both encouragement and criticism from the Vatican. Bishop Paglia argues that the debate over that theological trend, along with the political controversies that shook El Salvador throughout the 1980s, have obscured the historical appreciation of Archbishop Romero's personal role.

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