Archbishop Oscar Romero was quoted telling the reporters of El Salvador, “You can tell the people that if they succeed in killing me, that I forgive and bless those who do it. Hopefully, they will realize they are wasting their time. A bishop will die, but the church of God, which is the people, will never perish."
Romero was killed several days later during the Celebration of the Mass, one day after calling Christian Salvadorans to obey the law of God, even if it’s contradictory to government orders. Today, the Vatican is debating whether or not the archbishop was a martyr for the church, or an assassinated hero for the political left.
Archbishop Romero quickly ascended to the position of not only a religious leader, but a political hero for the peasant farmers of El Salvador at a time when the country was moving toward civil war.
Shortly after being appointed in the late 1970s, one of Romero’s priests and two members of his congregation were murdered for defending the needs of the repressed, impoverished farmers. It was at that point that he began a crusade to end the violence against the poor.
The archbishop’s position was not a popular one. His views on social justice conflicted with those of the Vatican officials who were concerned with liberation theology in South America.
Additionally, Romero’s picture was often printed next to leftist revolutionaries such as Che Guevara. It is the Vatican’s concern that the beatification of the archbishop could stir up unresolved political issues.
This concern was reaffirmed by the Vatican when Pope Benedict XVI told reporters that "Romero as a person merits beatification." However, in the official transcript, officials only kept the pope's general praise of the deceased archbishop as a "great witness to the faith."
The removal of the Pope’s support of the beatification has been noted by Cardinal Tarciscio Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretary of State.
The Associated Press reported that Bertone stated that the pope “wanted to be very respectful" of the saints' congregation, which is still considering the case.”
If it is confirmed that he was a martyr for the Faith, Archbishop Romero could be canonized. In the Catholic Church, martyrs can be canonized without the verification of a posthumous miracle.