When Blessed Oscar Romero met with Blessed Pope Paul VI

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Bl. Paul VI meets with Bl. Oscar Romero at the Vatican, June 21, 1978. Credit: Archdiocese of San Salvador.

In June 1978 the Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, went to the Vatican to meet with the Bishop of Rome, Paul VI. At that meeting, the Pope encouraged his fellow bishop to help the Salvadoran people “on the basis of a great love.”

The two bishops have since been beatified, and their canonization is expected to take place within the year.

Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez was Archbishop of San Salvador from 1977 until March 24, 1980, when he was shot while saying Mass. He was a vocal critic of the human rights abuses of the repressive Salvadoran government, and he spoke out on behalf of the poor and the victims of the government.

No one has been prosecuted for his assassination, but right-wing death squads are suspected. His death was recognized as a martyrdom and he was beatified in 2015.

In the 20th century, El Salvador was marked by extreme economic inequality, with an increase in protests and rebellions in the 1970s, which were met with government repression through death squads and forced disappearances. A civil war between military-led governments and left-wing guerilla groups began in 1979, and was not concluded until 1992.

Bl. Oscar Romero went to Rome in 1978 to meet with Vatican officials and with Bl. Paul VI, and he recounted the events in his diary.

He wrote that the Pope told him at their June 21, 1978 meeting, “I understand your difficult work. It is a work that can be misunderstood, you need to have a lot of patience and fortitude. I do know that not everyone thinks like you, it is difficult in the circumstances in your country to have that unanimity of thought, however, proceed with courage, with patience, with strength, with hope.”

Archbishop Romero then wrote down his thoughts on the audience at the Vatican: “He promised me that he would pray a lot for me and for my diocese. And that I should make every effort for unity. And that if there were anything he could personally do to help, he would gladly do so.”

“Then he referred to the people. He said that he knew the people from his work in the Secretariat of State 50 years ago, and that they are a generous people, hardworking and that they are now suffering a lot and are seeking to have their grievances addressed. He told me that I had to help them, to work for them, but never with hatred nor fomenting violence, but on the basis of a great love.”

The archbishop said said he expressed his “unshakable adhesion to the Magisterium of the Church. And that in my denunciations of the violent situation in the country, I always called for conversion and showed compassion for those who were suffering, for the families of the victims and at the same time, that I denounced sin, and called for the conversion of sinners.”

Finally, he recalled that the pope told him that he would pray a lot for El Salvador, and “that we should tell him what he could do to help us.”

Pope Francis will preside over a consistory on causes for canonization May 19, at which it is anticipated he will announce the dates that Bl. Oscar Romero and Bl. Paul VI are to be canonized. Their decrees for canonization were signed in March.

It is widely expected that the two will be canonized together during the Synod of Bishops in October.

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