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Canonization of Oscar Romero draws diocesan pilgrims, priests

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Archbishop Blessed Oscar Arnulfo Romero, who will be canonized Oct. 14, inspired many people with his defense of the poor and his human rights legacy. The way he lived and the way he died, as a martyr, inspired two groups of people from the diocese to travel to Rome for his canonization.


Parishioners from Our Lady of Angels Church in Woodbridge and Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria are in Rome for the big event.


Father Alex Diaz, parochial vicar of Our Lady of Angels and a native of El Salvador, was joined by 28 people.


“(Archbishop Romero) inspired me to make a fingerprint in the world through my ministry, loyalty and vocation,” said Father Diaz. “He is a priest forever.”


Though Father Diaz initially planned to go alone, his parishioners asked to join him. “It was the voice of the people who wanted to go participate in the Catholic event for the universal church,” he said. 


Father Diaz, who attended Blessed Romero’s beatification in 2015, hopes his parishioners will be inspired on their Oct. 9-16 trip. The pilgrimage will include a day in Assisi.


“God always shows us something,” he said.


Father Milton Acevedo, parochial vicar of Good Shepherd, traveled with 19 people, including three priests and a seminarian. Their group hopes to visit Assisi and Lanciano while in Italy Oct. 9-16.


“We are preparing this pilgrimage to Rome, with the goal of attending the Mass of canonization of Blessed Romero, that for us as Salvadorans feel a great joy to have the first (Salvadoran) saint in our church. Many of those who are going with me on this trip said they knew him during the tough times in our country,” he said.


Ed Berios, a parishioner of Good Shepherd, has only read about Blessed Romero’s life as a priest and defender of human rights in El Salvador. “I just have a great desire to be there when this takes place because his life is very inspiring to me as a Catholic,” he said. “I never had the chance to meet him but I heard a lot of great things from a close friend who did know him.”


For many of the pilgrims, it is their first time in Rome and they are emotional about attending the event and seeing the Vatican, said Father Acevedo.


“For them, participating in the Mass with Pope Francis will be unforgettable, a celebration at the seat of Peter the Apostle, who helped strengthen the faith and showed love to the universal church of Jesus Christ,” he said.


Father Acevedo attended several canonizations while studying theology in Rome for three years.


“We’ve been asking God that this be a unique experience, and most of all, for the intercession of St. Romero and St. Pope Paul VI,” he said.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018