Salvadoran community 'should feel proud' of Archbishop Romero's beatification

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Father Zacarias Martínez, parochial vicar of Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria, will visit El Salvador for the beatification of Archishop Óscar Romero May 23.

Archbishop Romero was assassinated in 1980 while celebrating Mass in a hospital chapel in San Salvador, the capital city. During the Central American country's civil war, Archbishop Romero famously stood up for the poor and oppressed, and opposed U.S. military aid to the Salvadoran government.

The beatification will take place in an outdoor Mass in Plaza Divino Salvador del Mundo in San Salvador. Italian Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, will celebrate the Mass.

In addition to participating in the Mass beatifying Romero, Father Martínez plans to take part in the Sonsonate Diocese's Pentecost celebration, as well as a discussion about Archbishop Romero as a figure in the Salvadoran church. During his four-day trip, he also plans to visit family in San Francisco Chinameca, his hometown.

"For me, as a Christian and a Catholic priest, it is an honor to participate in the beatification of the first Blessed person among my country's many martyrs," said Father Martínez. "Above all, Msgr. Romero has been a great pastor and martyr, a real example for future generations."

Efforts for the archbishop's beatification and canonization began in the early '90s, with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints accepting documents in 1997 under Pope John Paul II, but controversy has long shrouded canonization efforts for the archbishop, as a miracle is generally required for sainthood.

Pope Francis has sped up the canonization process for Archbishop Romero, declaring him a martyr in February.

"In the (best) sense of the word, we (Salvadorans) should feel proud to have a beatified bishop, pastor and prophet," said Father Martínez. "For the many of us Salvadorans living in Virginia, this should be a sign from God, a hopeful sign that today beatification and sainthood are upon us. We should take Msgr. Romero's example of humility, sensitivity, being a man of prayer, loyal to the Word of God, a man of hope and a burning candle for the Eucharist."

According to the Pew Research Center, a self-described "nonpartisan fact tank," Virginia has one of the highest concentrations of Salvadoran immigrants in the country. Of the estimated 2 million Salvadoran and Salvadoran-American immigrants living in the United States, 7 percent live in Virginia. California and Texas also have sizable Salvadoran communities.

Pew Hispanic, a project of the Pew Research Center, identifies the Salvadoran community as the largest Hispanic immigrant group in the Washington metro area.

Stoddard can be reached at cstoddard@catholicherald.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015