A supernatural sign? Rare solar halo appears at Romero beatification

By Elise Harris

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Solar halo at Beatification Mass for Archbishop Oscar Romero in San Salvador, El Salvador on May 23, 2015. Credit: Fr. Manuel Dorantes.

As the relics of Blessed Oscar Romero were brought out for veneration during his beatification Mass in San Salvador, the cloudy skies parted and a ring of light – known as a “solar halo” – appeared around the sun.

“Honestly, I think this one of the most supernatural things I have ever experienced in my life,” Father Manuel Dorantes told EWTN News May 29.

A priest of the diocese of Chicago and Spanish assistant to the director of the Holy See press office, Fr. Dorantes was present in San Salvador for the May 23 beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

Romero oversaw the diocese of San Salvador from 1977 until March 24, 1980, when he was shot and killed while saying Mass. In February Pope Francis officially recognized him as a martyr, and his beatification took place in his former diocese just over a week ago.

The ring around the sun appeared once Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, had finished reading the official decree proclaiming Oscar Arnulfo Romero as a martyr and a blessed, Fr. Dorantes recalled.

After the decree was vocally translated into Spanish, the choir began leading pilgrims in singing the traditional “Gloria” while a group of deacons brought out Romero’s relics – including the bloodstained shirt he wore the day he was killed.

Then “the weirdest thing occurred,” Fr. Dorantes noted, explaining that since it had been raining the day before, the sky was completely cloudy.

“As the relics came out, as we were singing the Gloria, all of a sudden, the heavens above us opened up, and the sun came out. A perfect circular halo formed above the sun.”

“Even as I am telling you now, I am getting chills about this,” he said, and recalled how once one priest looked up and saw it, others began to notice too.

Called a “halo,” the ring is a natural, optical phenomenon produced when light interacts with ice crystals hanging in the atmosphere. The result is usually a variety of colored or white rings, arcs or spots in the sky. Most halos form around the sun or moon, but are also known to appear elsewhere in the sky.

Although the phenomenon is known to happen, “it is extremely rare,” Fr. Dorantes said.

For the halo to appear at the same time Romero’s relics were brought out, the Gloria was being sung, Romero had just been declared a Blessed and his official image revealed, the opening of the sky was “a final touch of God saying yes,” the priest said.

“The people of El Salvador have known for 35 years there was holiness to this man in his way of living and the sacrifice he did for the Church,” so the halo was the last sign that the heavens were saying “yes, he is a saint, he is with us.”

Although he said he’s not one to say whether what happened is a miracle or not, Fr. Dorantes noted that the likelihood of the halo’s appearance at the exact moment of the Gloria and the bringing out of Romero’s relics is rare.

At that moment “there were many tears among the priests. I was crying, priests were crying,” and bishops who were under a covered area came out and also started looking up, he recalled.

“It's incredible, just incredible. In my mind, I think a small miracle, with a small 'm' really honing us in to everything we say sacramentally was given a little bit of evidence about that and it was just beautiful.”

Fr. Dorantes said that Romero's beatification served as a great moment of joy for all people in El Salvador.

By recognizing the archbishop as a martyr and a blessed the Church is echoing what the people in his diocese had known for many years: that “this man is a holy man. That this man gave his life truly for the Gospel.”

The timing of the beatification is a mystery, particularly since it happened under Pope Francis, who himself comes from Latin America, the priest noted.

He recalled how during Cardinal Amato’s homily for the beatification Mass, the cardinal pointed out how since Romero was shot while celebrating Mass, the bullet “interrupted” him and he was prevented from finishing the celebration.

A week later the same thing happened at Romero’s funeral Mass when firing squads interrupted and began shooting at people. Attendees had to grab the archbishop’s casket and carry it to the cathedral to bury him.

In his homily, Cardinal Amato said that “here we are today, and we are going to finish the Mass that Romero started on March the 24th,” Fr. Dorantes recalled.

“The funeral was precisely the recognition of a people right around their bishop. And so it was extremely beautiful to be there” for the archbishop’s beatification, he said.

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