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Tuesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Gal 5:1-6

Brothers and sisters:
For freedom Christ set us free;
so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

It is I, Paul, who am telling you
that if you have yourselves circumcised,
Christ will be of no benefit to you.
Once again I declare to every man who has himself circumcised
that he is bound to observe the entire law.
You are separated from Christ,
you who are trying to be justified by law;
you have fallen from grace.
For through the Spirit, by faith, we await the hope of righteousness.
For in Christ Jesus,
neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything,
but only faith working through love.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 119:41, 43, 44, 45, 47, 48

R. (41a) Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.
Let your mercy come to me, O LORD,
your salvation according to your promise.
R. Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.
Take not the word of truth from my mouth,
for in your ordinances is my hope.
R. Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.
And I will keep your law continually,
forever and ever.
R. Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.
And I will walk at liberty,
because I seek your precepts.
R. Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.
And I will delight in your commands,
which I love.
R. Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.
And I will lift up my hands to your commands
and meditate on your statutes.
R. Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.

Alleluia Heb 4:12

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The word of God is living and effective,
able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 11:37-41

After Jesus had spoken,
a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home.
He entered and reclined at table to eat.
The Pharisee was amazed to see
that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal.
The Lord said to him, "Oh you Pharisees!
Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish,
inside you are filled with plunder and evil.
You fools!
Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?
But as to what is within, give alms,
and behold, everything will be clean for you."
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Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Update: Superiors general see no reason why women shouldn't have vote at synod

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Although bishops should make up the majority of voting members at a Synod of Bishops, the fact that the body is only consultative means women should be included as full members just as priests and religious brothers are, said three priests who are voting members.

The superiors general of the Dominicans, the Jesuits and the Conventual Franciscans -- all priests who are voting members of the synod -- spoke to reporters at a Vatican briefing Oct. 15.

When the men's Union of Superiors General chose two religious brothers to be among their 10 voting delegates at the Synod of Bishops, they consciously made the choice to emphasize that men's religious orders include both priests and laymen, the minister general of the Conventual Franciscans said.

"Obviously it wasn't an accident" that two brothers were elected, Father Marco Tasca, the minister general, told Catholic News Service after the briefing. "Consecrated life is made up of priests and laypeople, so it is only right that there also be lay superiors general at the synod."

When the superiors elected a brother to the 2015 synod, he said, "there were some doubts about whether or not the synod office would accept him, but the pope intervened and said, 'Let him come.' Case closed.

"This time we didn't ask," Father Tasca said.

Now, he said, that choice "should raise the question of the presence of the sisters, the women. That is the great challenge."

The men's USG and the women's International Union of Superiors General are now asking that question together, Father Tasca said. "We had a meeting last week -- a small group of superiors from both -- and we asked, 'How can we move on this together?'"

The two organizations of superiors, which hold a joint meeting each November, will get together again, he said, to try to move the question forward. "I think the correct path is to present this together, not 'we men' or 'we women' like children, but together."

While rules for the Synod of Bishops provide for the men's union of superiors to elect 10 voting members for the synod, there is no such provision for the women's union of superiors. However, the pope does appoint women religious as observers or experts to the synods.

Several questions at the synod briefing Oct. 15 regarded the presence of women and their lack of a vote.

"It's a Synod of Bishops," said Father Bruno Cadore, master of the Dominican order. But, he said, the synod rules allow for "representatives" of religious life to participate, and they should be both men and women. "You know," he said, "that 80 percent of consecrated people in the church are women?"

Because the synod "is not a deliberative body, so it is not tied to priestly ordination, I think in the future there will be a Synod of Bishops that says, 'We want the participation of those who collaborate with us in pastoral work and, for this reason, we will invite representatives of consecrated life,' knowing that -- as I said -- 80 percent of them are women. This should happen."

In fact, he said, with this synod focused on "young people, the faith and vocational discernment," it would have made sense to have more women religious participating, given their work in the field of education, faith formation and vocational promotion.

Father Arturo Sosa, superior general of the Jesuits, said he agreed with Father Cadore that "it is a Synod of Bishops," but he also said he sees an effort by Pope Francis to "deepen the synodality of the church" and strengthen the vision of the church as "the people of God" by ensuring that men and women are treated equally and have an equal voice.

"I think this will help us move forward," Father Sosa said.

The repeated questions about women's participation and an international petition calling on the pope to give women a vote at the synod signify "discomfort, which is a sign that something's wrong," he said. "So one must listen and move forward."

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Catholic leaders welcome PEPFAR reauthorization in Congress

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two Catholic leaders applauded congressional committees for reauthorizing the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, opening the door for final passage of a bill to keep the program in place for another five years.

Citing how the 15-year-old program has saved millions of lives around the world and prevented millions of new infections, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, said in a statement Oct. 15 the program ensures U.S. leadership in the campaign against HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Funds under the program, known as PEPFAR, support numerous services such as providing free antiretroviral medicines for eligible patients, support for families devastated by AIDS, after-school programs for children whose parents died from the disease and their caregivers, transportation for health services and counseling.

Callahan and Archbishop Broglio said the program is worthwhile even though they hold "principled concerns" about some aspects of PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS through which funds are funneled that are inconsistent with Catholic teaching. Therefore, they said, church agencies do not implement or advocate for them.

CRS, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency, has received funding under PEPFAR since 2004. PEPFAR was supported by the USCCB after its staff worked to ensure that conscience protections were included in the law authorizing the program.

PEPFAR "is one of the most successful global health programs in history demonstrating U.S. leadership in saving lives and safeguarding human dignity of the most vulnerable people," the leaders said.

The number of deaths caused by AIDS and other serious diseases each year has been reduced by one-third since 2002 in countries where the Global Fund invests. The program also has supported 6.4 million orphans, vulnerable children and their caregivers over the years.

"Saving lives and protecting the future of vulnerable children is a proud U.S. legacy thanks to the U.S. Congress," the statement said.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the reauthorization Sept. 27 while the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the measure Oct. 3.

A final vote on the bill in both houses of Congress is expected this fall.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Baltimore Archdiocese, Catholic Charities help launch Parish ID in city

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review

By Paul McMullen

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- This generation of immigrants to Baltimore will continue to find a haven in the Catholic Church.

That was the message Oct. 10 from the steps of Sacred Heart of Jesus-Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, where Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, Archbishop William E. Lori and Catholic pastors who minister to those from foreign countries attended the announcement of the establishment of a Parish ID program.

The program's priority is "focused on helping residents to feel comfortable interacting with the Baltimore City Police Department," according to BUILD, or Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, which helped organize the initiative.

Even though the enforcement of immigration laws falls primarily under federal jurisdiction rather than municipal jurisdiction, many the city's immigrants who are living in the U.S. without legal documents remain hesitant to report crimes committed against them, for fear of their own arrest, and possible deportation and separation from their families.

"No one should be a victim because they're afraid of calling police," said Pugh, who backed the initiative at a town hall in June.

With the support of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Catholic Charities of Baltimore, through the Esperanza Center, residents will be able to obtain a non-government-issued ID that shows their photo and home address.

"The full weight of the Archdiocese of Baltimore is behind this effort," said Archbishop Lori, head of the Baltimore Archdiocese.

The program will be launched at Sacred Heart of Jesus-Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, followed by St. Matthew in Northwood and then other parishes that serve immigrant communities.

According to BUILD, city residents who have been members of its affiliate churches for three months are eligible for a Parish ID. It requires an existing identification, such as a passport; proof of address, such as a utility bill; a notarized statement from another person who can verify one's identity; and attendance at a half-day orientation.

Interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle said that the card was being introduced to command staff Oct. 11, and department-wide in the next two weeks. BUILD said the IDs will only be recognized in the city.

While some logistics remain to be worked out, priests such as Redemptorist Father Bruce Lewandowski and Father Joseph Muth, who are the respective pastors of those faith communities, will play a substantial role in the roll-out.

"The best example I can think of, I call 911 to report a break in, my house has been robbed," Father Lewandowski said. "I call the police, how do they know I live there? How do I identify myself? If I'm an immigrant, I can show them my passport, but that just says I come from another country.

"I show them my Parish ID, (it shows) there are people there who know me and can verify my identity. If someone is stopped by the police, it says people know me."

Several speakers alluded to the hope that the program could help drive down crime in a city coming off the deadliest year in its history.

"We are sending a clear message, that people have a right to be safe," the archbishop said. "People have a right to live in a city where they see each other as neighbors and friends, rather than strangers and enemies."

"With the security offered by this ID, people will stop looking over their shoulders and stop hiding in their homes and parishes," he added. "This ID provides one avenue to freedom from fear. The ID card is a way of developing trust ' and creating safer streets and homes."

Asked what qualifies him to vouch for his people, Father Lewandowski said, "I know probably 1,500 people in this parish alone, probably 800 at St. Patrick and probably 400 more at Our Lady of Fatima."

Father Muth can speak for Rebecca Kitana, a native of Kenya and member of the Immigration Outreach Service Center, based at St. Matthew Church. The parish is both her spiritual home and her literal one, as she resides in its convent through the auspices of Asylee Women's Enterprise.

"Anyone who comes to our door is given a safe place," Kitana said of the outreach center, which has assisted immigrants from more than 140 countries. "At the IOSC, we know that many immigrants will benefit from the Parish ID. There are people who are living in fear.

"I personally know a woman who is scared to leave her house, because she is afraid that she will come into contact with police, be detained and force to leave behind her child. An ID like this will make people less afraid, and more fully engaged."

Father Muth noted the history of Baltimore, and the church.

"We're an immigrant church, in an immigrant city," Father Muth said. "The city was built, and the church was built, by and for immigrants of many generations. Now we're taking this step for the next generation, to keep them protected with ID cards that acknowledge their place in the community."

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McMullen is managing editor of the Catholic Review, the news website and magazine of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: Limousine crash 'heartbreaking, gut-wrenching' for N.Y. community

IMAGE: CNS photo/Lori Van Buren, Times Union

By Kate Blain

ALBANY, N.Y. (CNS) -- Among the 20 people killed in a devastating limousine accident Oct. 6 in Schoharie were several victims who had connections to parishes, schools and Catholic organizations of the Albany Diocese.

All 17 passengers in the limo and its driver were killed when the car ran through a stop sign, struck two pedestrians and a parked car, and landed in a shallow ravine. The pedestrians also died. Police have arrested the owner of the limousine company and charged him with criminally negligent homicide.

Among the fatalities was Amanda Halse, 26, a server, bartender and supervisor at the restaurant at Shaker Pointe senior living community in Watervliet, sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her boyfriend, Patrick Cushing, also died in the crash.

Gregory Reeves, regional vice president for Lifestyles, the company that runs the restaurant, recalled the young woman everyone called "Mandy" as low-key, with a "Mona Lisa smile." Halse had worked at Shaker Pointe for the past three years, since the restaurant opened.

"She had an infectious smile," Reeves said, and "what was behind it was a desire to please."

He said he had spoken to Halse about pursuing a career in the restaurant industry; he believed she had what it took to succeed.

Sister Kay Ryan, who also is part of Shaker Pointe's leadership team, agreed with that assessment.

When customers arrived at the restaurant, she said, "Mandy would say, 'Can I get you what you normally order, or are you trying to experiment?'"

"It's such a tragedy that this person who had such potential is not going to be here to fulfill it," Sister Kay told The Evangelist, Albany's diocesan newspaper. "She certainly lived the mission of Shaker Pointe."

Cushing, Halse's boyfriend, graduated from eighth grade at St. Mary's Institute in Amsterdam in 2001.

"He was a wonderful, quiet, shy kid," recalled the school's alumni relations director, Jeanette Constantine, who knew several of the victims and their families.

Constantine noted that newlyweds Shane McGowan and Erin Vertucci McGowan, two more of the crash victims, also attended St. Mary's Institute through seventh grade and second grade, respectively.

The school remembered the victims in morning prayers when the school reopened Oct. 9 after Columbus Day weekend. Constantine said they would also be mentioned in an upcoming liturgy.

The McGowans married in June at St. Mary's Church in Amsterdam.

Mrs. McGowan, who was working toward a master's degree in special education, had worked at St. Mary's Healthcare in Amsterdam. The hospital posted on Facebook that "St. Mary's Healthcare family sends thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of those affected by the Schoharie tragedy" and noted that the community is "(coming) together to support one another during this difficult time."

Mrs. McGowan also was Cushing's cousin. One current pre-kindergarten student at St. Mary's Institute lost an uncle in the accident. Another victim's godchild attends the school.

The intertwined connections are an indication of the closeness of the Amsterdam-area community. Two Catholics told The Evangelist that family members had been on school sports teams with several of the victims and were coached by others.

Constantine said her nephew was a close friend of Cushing's and had flown in from Chicago to attend a candlelight vigil held the evening of Oct. 8 at the Amsterdam pedestrian bridge.

Maryknoll Father Jeffrey L'Arche, pastor of St. Mary's Parish in Amsterdam, attended that vigil, which drew well over 1,000 people. He said the candles ran out before all the participants could take one.

A funeral Mass was celebrated for eight of the victims Oct. 13 at St. Stanislaus Church in Amsterdam and for Cushing the same day at St. Mary's Church, also in Amsterdam. The funeral Mass for the McGowans was being celebrated Oct. 15 also at St. Mary's.

Constantine, Father L'Arche and others used similar words to describe the tragedy: "overwhelming," "heartbreaking" and "gut-wrenching."

Constantine said the hundreds of thousands of dollars already raised for children and other survivors through online GoFundMe pages, as well as the sheer number of memorials held for the victims, show the depth of the tragedy.

The accident has been called the deadliest transportation accident in the United States since 2009.

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Blain is editor of The Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

New documentary reveals rare interview of Blessed Oscar Romero

A new documentary about Blessed Oscar Romero, featuring a rare interview with him, revealed the martyred archbishop's thoughts regarding accusations that he became too progressive.

The post New documentary reveals rare interview of Blessed Oscar Romero appeared first on Superior Catholic Herald.

USCCB Chairman and Catholic Relief Services Commend Congress for Advancing the PEPFAR Extension Act of 2018

WASHINGTON—Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Sean Callahan, President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), issue the following statement in response to today's action regarding the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR):

Full statement follows:

"We welcome Congressional reauthorization of PEPFAR, which has so far saved millions of lives, prevented millions of new infections and supported 6.4 million orphans, vulnerable children and their caregivers around the world. The action on the PEPFAR Extension Act of 2018 by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee paves the way for final passage and for another five years of U.S. leadership in the fight against HIV, TB and Malaria and the protection and support of orphans and vulnerable children.

"Although we have principled concerns about certain aspects of PEPFAR and the Global Fund prevention activities that we find inconsistent with Catholic teaching and do not implement or advocate for those activities, overall PEPFAR is one of the most successful global health programs in history demonstrating U.S. leadership in saving lives and safeguarding human dignity of the most vulnerable people. Through the work of PEPFAR, in partnership with other governments and communities, the U.S. has changed the course of the AIDS pandemic globally. Since 2003 when it was first authorized, PEPFAR has received strong bipartisan support in Congress.

"The legislation also sets U.S. policy for the support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. Health programs supported by the Global Fund partnership have saved 27 million lives as of the end of 2017. Overall, the number of deaths caused by AIDS, TB and malaria each year has been reduced by one-third since 2002 in countries where the Global Fund invests.

"We greatly appreciate the leadership of Chairmen Royce, Smith and Corker, Ranking Members Engel, Bass and Menendez as well as Representatives Barbara Lee and Betty McCollum and Senator Cardin, for their work to ensure that children were not forgotten in this bill. Saving lives and protecting the future of vulnerable children is a proud U.S. legacy thanks to the U.S. Congress."

---

Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Committee on International Justice and Peace, Sean Callahan, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), PEPFAR Extension Act of 2018, House Foreign Affairs Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria, orphans, vulnerable children, Global Fund

###

Media Contact:

Judy Keane

202-541-3200

Domestic Justice Chairman Welcomes End to Death Penalty in Washington State

WASHINGTON—Following the Washington Supreme Court's ruling striking down the state death penalty statute, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, welcomed the decision and reiterated the Church's call to end the death penalty. 

The full statement of Bishop Dewane follows: 

"The Washington Supreme Court is to be commended for its unanimous decision to strike down the state death penalty statute.  In his 2015 address to the U.S. Congress, Pope Francis called for 'the global abolition of the death penalty,' as he explained, 'I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. . . . [A] just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.'   

"In the Court's opinion, the death penalty was deemed 'invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.' This echoes one of the reasons to oppose the death penalty that the bishops gave in their 2005 statement A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death: 

[The death penalty's] application is deeply flawed and can be irreversibly wrong, is prone to errors, and is biased by factors such as race, the quality of legal representation, and where the crime was committed. 

"We join the Catholic Bishops of Washington, the Washington State Catholic Conference, the Catholic Mobilizing Network, and all people of good will in welcoming this development and persevering in the work to end the death penalty."  

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Keywords:  United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, death penalty, Washington Supreme Court, Pope Francis, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death, Washington State Catholic Conference, Catholic Mobilizing Network, rehabilitation

# # # 

Media Contact:  

Judy Keane  

202-541-3200

Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

Reading 1 Gal 4:22-24, 26-27, 31–5:1

Brothers and sisters:
It is written that Abraham had two sons,
one by the slave woman and the other by the freeborn woman.
The son of the slave woman was born naturally,
the son of the freeborn through a promise.
Now this is an allegory.
These women represent two covenants.
One was from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery;
this is Hagar.
But the Jerusalem above is freeborn, and she is our mother.
For it is written:
Rejoice, you barren one who bore no children;
break forth and shout, you who were not in labor;
for more numerous are the children of the deserted one
than of her who has a husband.

Therefore, brothers and sisters,
we are children not of the slave woman
but of the freeborn woman.

For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm
and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 113:1b-2, 3-4, 5a and 6-7

R. (see 2) Blessed be the name of the Lord forever.
or:
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Praise, you servants of the LORD,
praise the name of the LORD.
Blessed be the name of the LORD
both now and forever.
R. Blessed be the name of the Lord forever.
or:
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
From the rising to the setting of the sun
is the name of the LORD to be praised.
High above all nations is the LORD;
above the heavens is his glory.
R. Blessed be the name of the Lord forever.
or:
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Who is like the LORD, our God,
who looks upon the heavens and the earth below?
He raises up the lowly from the dust;
from the dunghill he lifts up the poor.
R. Blessed be the name of the Lord forever.
or:
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Alleluia Ps 95:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 11:29-32

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
"This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here."
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Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

El Salvador celebrates its first saint, whose legacy continues

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jose Cabezas, Reuters

By David Agren

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (CNS) -- Near the end of his homily at a Mass just prior to St. Oscar Romero's canonization, Jesuit Father Jose Maria Tojeira yelled to the crowd outside the Metropolitan Cathedral: "Viva Monsenor Romero!" (Long live Bishop Romero!)

The overflow crowed lustily yelled back, "Que Viva!" (Long live!)

"We're not venerating a body," Father Tojeira said, "rather someone who is alive, together with God and in the hearts of all Christians that want to continue with the reality of the Gospel."

During the Oct. 14 at the Vatican -- very early morning in El Salvador -- Salvadorans gathered in the square outside the cathedral to watch the ceremony on big screens; others watched in their parishes.

St. Romero was shot dead while celebrating Mass March 24, 1980. His legacy of showing a preference for the poor and promoting peace lives on in his native El Salvador, where, even in death, he plays an outsized role in the country's public life and occupies a special place in its collective consciousness -- for devotees and detractors alike.

He becomes El Salvador's first saint. But his current role in the country transcends religion. He also has assumed the status of national hero, whose words -- spoken in homilies -- sound prophetic and seem apt almost four decades after his death.

"He still is the most venerated and respected leader of the last 100 years, certainly the last 50 years," said Rick Jones, youth and migration adviser for Catholic Relief Services in El Salvador.

"He's still the sign post of what people are looking for in terms of some voice that talks about reconciliation, justice and hope for nonviolent transformation."

St. Romero's slaying came as the country was on the cusp of civil war, which roared through the 1980s. His canonization comes as the country convulses with violence, much of it attributed to gangs preying on populations living in barrios under their control.

As archbishop of San Salvador, the national capital, St. Romero accompanied the poor at a time when some two-thirds of the population lived in poverty. He also voiced people's demands for better wages and criticisms of the "oligarchy"  -- as the elites were caustically called -- at a time when his critics considered such talk "communist." He also called for a suspension of U.S. military assistance.

The poverty and inequality St. Romero spoke out against are still rife in 2018. Many Salvadorans also still flee the country to escape the violence and indignities, causing his words to resonate with younger generations and even some evangelicals and atheists.

"What he said is still valid. His words still carry enormous weight," said Douglas Martinez, a vendor in San Salvador. "He was practically a prophet on this earth."

Canonization was never certain for St. Romero, though some in the country have long considered him a saint.

"For me and for many people in the country -- a good number of people with a social commitment -- Bishop Romero has been a saint since his martyrdom, and now it's going to be the formal act," said Gabina Dubon, coordinator of the transformational social ministry in Caritas El Salvador.

"In that time there was no freedom of expression. He became a voice for those without a voice, a defender of life, dignity, solidarity and the common good."

St. Romero served only three years as archbishop of San Salvador, yet he left a legacy via his homilies, which were broadcast across the country.

Participants in a procession to the cathedral carried signs with quotes culled from those homilies. "There's no more diabolical sin than taking bread from the hungry," read one sign. "It's necessary to call injustice by its name," read another.

The celebrations carried political overtones for some. A U.N. truth commission named Roberto d'Aubuisson, an ex-army officer and founder of the conservative ARENA alliance, as the intellectual author of the murder. He died of cancer in 1992.

Father Neftali Ruiz carried a banner castigating ARENA, but saying of Romero, "The people made him a saint."

Father Ruiz stood outside the same cathedral where tens of thousands of Salvadorans mourned St. Romero at his funeral. Snipers opened fire on the funeral, killing at least 40 people.

Only one Salvadoran bishop attended the funeral: Archbishop Arturo Rivera Damas, who was named St. Romero's successor in San Salvador.

"He always defended Romero," Father Tojeira said of Archbishop Rivera, "but speaking in confidence ... he would say, 'A bishop like Romero arrives every 500 years.'"

The St. Romero canonization showed how time had changed in the country and church though, in an interview, Father Tojeira quipped of St. Romero's critics, "They used to say 'communist.' They now have a little more civilized discourse but continue being similar."

Celebrations of the canonization occurred in dioceses across El Salvador -- even in San Vicente, where priests would bless army helicopters during the civil war. Father Ruiz recalled being expelled from the minor seminary there in 2000 for refusing to stop displaying an image of St. Romero.

Today, images of St. Romero grace everything from postage stamps to murals to the walls of the presidential palace to political ads, as the ruling party attempts to capitalize on his popularity and incorruptible reputation.

That politicians try to appropriate St. Romero's image bothers some devotees as crime, corruption and poverty persist at alarmingly high levels. St. Romero also criticized both sides of the political spectrum.

"(Politicians) don't practice what he preached," said Elsy Cornejo, who was selling CDs of St. Romero's homilies. "He spoke of peace and accompanying the poor."

With the murder rate in El Salvador ranking among the highest in the world and gangs preying on poor barrio dwellers with crimes such as extortion and the forced recruitment of teenagers, Cornejo added, "We're also practicing very little of what he preached."

Church observers expressed hope St. Romero's canonization could bring unity to a country with polarized politics and offer a possibility of improvement.

"He presents a figure for reconciliation," Jones said, "and a different way to move forward other than ... just the left or the right."

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