In a not-insignificant symbolic move, Pope Francis has opened the path for the beatification of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, whom a government-sponsored right-wing death squad assassinated while Romero conducted mass in March of 1980. Beatification is the third of four steps to canonization, bearing with it the title of “Blessed,” and, in Church doctrine, those who have been beatified can intercede on behalf of those who pray in the beatified’s name. Though Romero was well on the path to beatification under John Paul II, Benedict XVI tried to slow down the “mass-production” of saints during his administration, putting a hold on Romero’s process (politics may have played a role as well, given that Romero was an outspoken critic of poverty and repression in El Salvador, a politicization of message that ran counter to Ratzinger’s own suppression of such messages as Cardinal in the late-1970s and early-1980s). Though one’s mileage may vary on the actual value of beatification or/and sainthood, the fact that Francis has once again opened the path for Romero is not without symbolic importance and resonance in Latin America.
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