VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News) - On the day of Oscar Romero's beatification in San Salvador, Pope Francis sent a letter to the current archbishop, praising the martyr for his courageous service to the poor amid widespread national violence.
"On this day of celebration for the Salvadoran nation, and also for the beautiful Latin American countries, we give thanks to God because he granted a martyr bishop the ability to see and hear the suffering of his people," the Pope said in his May 23 letter.
Romero, he said, "built peace with the power of love, (and) bore witness to the faith with his life given to the extreme."
Addressed to Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas, the letter was sent by the Pope to the diocese of San Salvador in honor of the May 23 beatification of its former archbishop, Óscar Arnulfo Romero Galdámez.
Archbishop Romero oversaw the diocese of San Salvador from 1977 until March 24, 1980, when he was shot while saying Mass.
He headed the Church in San Salvador during a time of heavy unrest, when El Salvador was on the brink of civil war. He was an outspoken critic of human rights abuses perpetrated by the repressive Salvadoran government, and spoke out on behalf of the poor and the victims of the government.
Both Pope Francis and Benedict XVI hold Archbishop Romero in high regard. The bishop's cause for beatification was opened in 1993, and Feb. 3 of this year Francis officially approved of his martyrdom, opening the door for his beatification.
In his letter, Pope Francis referred to Romero as "a zealous bishop who, by loving God and serving his brethren, became an image of Christ the Good Shepherd."
At a time when peaceful coexistence in El Salvador was unstable, Romero emerged as a shepherd who "knew how to lead, defend and protect his flock," the Pope said, noting how the bishop's entire ministry was marked "by a special attention to the poorest and most marginalized."
The Lord, he said, never abandons his people in the midst of difficulty and oppression, but rather hears their cries and immediately comes to their aid to so they can be set free.
Archbishop Romero's voice continues to ring out even today as a reminder that the Church is truly the family of God "in which there can be no division," Francis said.
Those who have Romero as a friend and who invoke him as an intercessor and protector find in him "strength and courage to build the Kingdom of God, and to commit to a more equitable and dignified social order," the Pope continued.
He said that the archbishop's beatification is a ripe time for "true and proper national reconciliation" in El Salvador, which, despite having made political peace, still suffers due to poverty and violence.
Pope Francis said that he participates in the beatification with his hopes, and joins in prayer "so that the seed of martyrdom flourishes and becomes entrenched by the true paths of the sons and daughters of this nation, which proudly bears the name of the Divine Savior of the world."
Please find below CNA's full English translation of the Pope's letter:
Mons. José Luis Escobar Alas
Archbishop of San Salvador
President of the Episcopal Conference of El Salvador
The beatification of Mons. Óscar Arnulfo Romero Galdámez, who was pastor of this dear archdiocese, is a reason for great joy for Salvadorans and for all those who enjoy the example of the best sons of the Church. Mons. Romero, who built peace with the power of love, bore witness to the faith with his life given to the extreme.
The Lord never abandons his people in difficulties, and he always shows diligence in their needs. He sees the oppression, hears the painful cries of his children, and comes to their aid to free them from oppression and bring them to a new land, fertile and spacious, "flowing with milk and honey (Ex 3:7-8)." Just as he chose Moses to lead his people in his name, he continues to raise pastors after his own heart, who feed his flock with knowledge and prudence.
In this beautiful Central American country, bathed by the Pacific Ocean, the Lord granted to his Church a zealous bishop who, by loving God and serving his brethren, became an image of Christ the Good Shepherd. In times of difficult coexistence, Mons. Romero knew how to lead, defend and protect his flock, remaining faithful to the Gospel and in communion with the entire Church. His ministry was distinguished by a special attention to the poorest and most marginalized. And in the moment of his death, while celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of Love and Reconciliation, he received the grace of fully identifying with the One who have his life for his sheep.
On this day of celebration for the Salvadoran nation, and also for the beautiful Latin American countries, we give thanks to God because he granted a martyr bishop the ability to see and hear the suffering of his people, and was molding his heart so that, in his name, he will guide and enlighten, to make his work a full exercise of Christian Charity.
The voice of the new Blessed continues to resonate today to remind us that the Church, a gathering of brothers around their Lord, is the family of God in which there can be no division. Faith in Jesus Christ, when it is well understood and is assumed until its final consequences, generates communities who are builders of peace and solidarity. It is to this that the Church in El Salvador, in America and in the entire world is called to today: to be rich in mercy, to become a leaven of reconciliation for society.
Mons. Romero invites us to wisdom and reflection, to respect for life and harmony.
It's necessary to renounce "the violence of the sword, of hatred," and to live "the violence of love, which left Christ nailed to a cross, which makes each person overcome their egoism and ensures that no such cruel inequalities are among us." He knew how to see and experience in his own flesh "the egoism that lurks in those who do not want to give up themselves in order to reach others." And, with the heart of a father, he cared for "the most poor," asking the powerful to convert their "weapons into scythes for work."
Those who have Mons. Romero as a friend in the faith, who invoke him as protector and intercessor, who admire his image, finds in him strength and courage to build the Kingdom of God, and to commit to a more equitable and dignified social order.
It is a favorable moment for a true and proper national reconciliation in front of the challenges that currently faced today. The Pope participates with his hopes, he joins his prayers so that the seed of martyrdom flourishes and becomes entrenched by the true paths of the sons and daughters of this nation, which proudly bears the name of the Divine Savior of the world.
Dear brother, I ask you, please, to pray and do pray for me, while at the same time I impart my apostolic blessing to all those who are united in different ways in the celebration of the new Blessed.
Vatican, 23 May 2015