Murdered Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero is closer to beatification after Pope Francis called for his case to be examined, despite Church concerns his death might be politically exploited, a bishops’ newspaper said Friday.
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints on Thursday declared Romero a martyr, meaning he can be beatified — or “blessed” — without the “miracle” needed to put candidates on the path to sainthood, according to Avvenire, the newspaper of Italy’s Catholic Bishops.
The archbishop, a defender of the poor and vocal critic of the military during El Salvador’s civil war, was shot dead in 1980 while celebrating mass.
His support for the oppressed has seen him held up by some as a champion of Liberation Theology, a political movement rooted in South America which believed the Church should work with the poor to bring about social change.
While Romero was not actually a subscriber to the theology, his support for the oppressed meant some within the Church were reluctant to beatify him due to concerns his death could be exploited for political or ideological reasons.
Francis, who has called for a “poor Church for the poor” and is considered close to Romero in his approach to social justice, was wary of Liberation Theology earlier in his career.
In August he said Romero was a “man of God” whom he hoped would be quickly beatified.