In El Salvador we visited this chapel where Archbishop Romero was assassinated. The words on the wall behind the altar read, “At this altar Archbishop Romero offered his life for the people.”
It was a quiet summer morning, and a woman was arranging flowers by the altar. There was a great sense of sadness and holiness in this site of a martyrdom. The students all went immediately to pews to pray. I stood at the back of the chapel and kept silence.
Romero’s cause is delayed in Rome. Some people say it is because he was allied with liberation theology. I don’t think he was. He stood up for the poor. He spoke out against violence, intimidation and persecution done both by the right and the left wings in his country. I believe his cause is held up because he had been adopted by the left wing in El Salvador. Around the country you see political portraits of him next to Che Guevara. Because of this he has, unfairly, become a political figure, and if Rome canonizes him it appears that they are supporting the left. This would be very tricky in a country where the present political stability is a hard won and delicate thing.
Rome’s silence is wise. Everyone who is open minded and reads the story of Romero realizes that he was a saint and martyr. The formal process may still take some time because of the other complicating factors.