Pope denounces priests and bishops who ‘defamed’ Romero

Pope Francis has denounced priests and bishops who “defamed” Blessed Oscar Romero after his death, in a campaign that delayed his beatification.

The Pope made these remarks “off-the-cuff” while speaking on Friday to a group of Salvadoran pilgrims.

Pope Francis said that Romero suffered martyrdom not just by his murder on March 24, 1980, but afterwards.

The Pope said: “I was a young priest then and I was a witness to this: he was defamed, calumnied and had dirt thrown on his name — his martyrdom continued even by his brothers in the priesthood and episcopate.”

He said Blessed Romero was “stoned with the hardest stone that exists in the world: the tongue”.

“After having given his life, he continues to give it by allowing himself to be assailed by all this misunderstanding and slander,” the Pope said, adding that “this gives me strength”.

Blessed Romero had spoken out against repression by the army at the beginning of El Salvador’s 1980-1992 civil war.

He was murdered by right-wing death squads as he celebrated Mass in a hospital chapel in San Salvador.

Romero’s sainthood case was held up by the Vatican, apparently due to opposition from some Latin American churchmen who feared his association with liberation theology would embolden the movement.

After a 35-year delay, Blessed Romero was beatified in May this year.

Pope Francis, speaking to the pilgrims, said he hoped God would continue what Blessed Romero had hoped would come to El Salvador: “the happy moment when El Salvador’s terrible tragedy of suffering of so many of our brothers thanks to hatred, violence and injustice, disappears”.

In a message sent for the beatification, Pope Francis said Archbishop Romero “built the peace with the power of love, [and] gave testimony of the faith with his life”.


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