Pope unblocks Beatification of Oscar Romero

Pope Francis opened the way on Monday to a quick beatification for Oscar Romero, saying that there are no more doctrinal problems blocking the process for the former Salvadoran archbishop, who was one of the heroes of what is called the liberation theology movement in Latin America.

Romero, the former archbishop of San Salvador, was gunned down in 1980 while celebrating Mass. He spoke out against repression by the Salvadoran army at the beginning of the country’s civil war between the right-wing government and leftist rebels, a common theme at the time of the Cold War that affected many Latin American countries.

Francis told journalists traveling home from South Korea that Romero’s case had been “blocked out of prudence” by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. However, it has now been “unblocked.” He said the case had passed to the saint-making office.

The group launched a crackdown on liberation theology under Joseph Ratzinger, who was a cardinal then, fearing what was deemed as Marxist excesses. The liberation theology movement holds the view that Jesus’ teachings imbue followers with a duty to fight for social and economic justice.

Francis said of Romero that “it is important to do the case quickly,” but that the investigation must take its course.

He declared that Romero “was a man of God” and said that he wanted to expand the church’s concept of martyrdom to include a broader field of candidates. Unlike regular candidates for beatification, martyrs can reach the first step to possible sainthood without a miracle. A miracle is needed for canonization.

Traditionally, the church has restricted the martyr designation to people who were killed out of hatred for the Catholic church. Francis said that he wanted theologians to study whether those who were killed because of their actions doing God’s work could also be considered martyrs.

“What I would like is that they clarify when there’s a martyrdom for hatred of the faith – for confessing the faith – as well as for doing the work for the other that Jesus commands,” Francis stated.