BLESSED Oscar Romero, the martyred champion of the poor and marginalized, was beatified in his home city of San Salvador yesterday.
Last February, on the Vatican announcement that Pope Francis had authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate a decree of martyrdom for the assassinated Servant of God Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez, the prelate of Opus Dei Bishop Javier Echevarria issued the following statement under the heading “Archbishop Oscar Romero is going to be a deeply beloved saint.”
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“The martyrs present a challenge to all men and women, both believers and non-believers, but they are a shining light especially for those who have placed their hope in God. I am sure that Archbishop Oscar Romero is going to be a deeply beloved saint.
“I met Archbishop Romero in Rome, during one of his visits to Saint Josemaria, in 1974. He was a pious person, detached from his own interests and dedicated to his people. His struggle for sanctity was palpable. Archbishop Romero was one of the first bishops who, following the death of Saint Josemaria in 1975, wrote to Paul VI asking that his cause of canonization be opened. I am certain that now, from Heaven, he continues interceding with his good friend Saint Josemaria for this portion of the People of God that is Opus Dei.”
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The Opus Dei article about Bishop Echevarria’s statement narrated that Saint Josemaria and Archbishop Romero had known one another since 1955. The Archbishop of San Salvador had great esteem for the spirit of Opus Dei and had frequent contact with the apostolic work of the faithful of the Prelature in El Salvador.
In 1974 he came to Rome and had several conversations with Saint Josemaria. As Fr. Antonio Rodriguez Pedrezuela recounts in his book A Sea Without Shores, the founder of Opus Dei was concerned that the Archbishop have the opportunity to rest during his stay in Rome, because he realized the tense situation he faced back in El Salvador.
The affection was mutual, and when the founder of Opus Dei died, Archbishop Romero, in his postulatory letter for Saint Josemaria’s cause of canonization, expressed his gratitude “for having received from him encouragement and strength to be faithful to the unchangeable doctrine of Christ and to serve the Holy Roman Church with apostolic zeal.”
In the same letter he wrote: “Msgr. Escriva’s life was marked by a continuous dialogue with God and a deep humility. One could see that he was a man of God and that he dealt with people with great refinement, affection and good humor.”
A letter addressed to Blessed Alvaro del Portillo a few months after the founder’s death shows that his affection and esteem for Saint Josemaria had only grown stronger.
He also had a deep friendship with Archbishop Fernando Saenz, who was Vicar of Opus Dei in El Salvador, and later his successor as archbishop of San Salvador. The day he was assassinated, Archbishop Romero spent the morning with Fernando Saenz at a recollection for priests organized by Opus Dei. Afterwards Fernando Saenz accompanied the Archbishop to the church where he was to celebrate Mass. Saenz recalls: “They killed him during the offering of the bread and wine. It was, as it were, a marvelous external sign of his having offered his life for his people, for the poor, for justice, for peace.”
The above paragraphs are from the Opus Dei information center and is copyrighted (© www.opusdei.org)
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“Bishop Romero was a man of God”
The Opus Dei website (http://www.opusdei.org/en-us/article/archbishop-oscar-romero-was-a-man-of-god/) last May 18 published recollections by Monsignor Joaquin Alonso, who was one of Saint Josemaria’s assistants in the days when the Blessed Oscar Romero met the founder of Opus Dei in Rome.
Msgr. Joaquin Alonso recalls the meeting in Rome in 1974 between Archbishop Oscar Romero and Saint Josemaria, which gave him (Mons. Alonso) the opportunity to get to know the future Blessed quite well.
Msgr. Joaquin Alonso (Seville, 1929) studied law at the university and holds a doctorate in canon law. He lived alongside Saint Josemaria in Rome and has worked closely with the current Prelate of Opus Dei for many years. A consultor theologian for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, he has spent the last 62 years of his life in Rome.
Q: Msgr. Alonso, how did you come to know the future Blessed Oscar Romero?
Monsignor Alonso: I met him in Rome, in 1974. On October 30 of that year he came to Rome (it wasn’t his first trip here). Saint Josemaria had agreed to meet with him on November 8, and he asked me to do all I could to assist him. He had just been named bishop of Santiago de Maria, in El Salvador, a few days before undertaking the trip.
Bishop Romero remarked to me that his trip to the Eternal City was providential, since it was an opportunity to leave behind his habitual environment and get a broader perspective, as he put it, on the small corner of the world that was his responsibility back home. He felt keenly the weight of his responsibility for his new episcopal see, and he needed someone who could listen to his concerns and give him encouragement.
Q. Do you have any specific memories of those days?
Monsignor Alonso: For me this visit was an opportunity to speak with Bishop Romero at length and get to know him quite well. Our conversations were fraternal and very priestly. Among other things, Bishop Oscar Romero told me that, since the early 60s, he had been receiving spiritual direction from a priest of Opus Dei, Fr. Juan Aznar, who died in March 2004.
Later I came to know more details about his relationship with Fr. Juan Aznar. For example, he told him in a letter written in 1970: “You are the only person who truly understands my soul.” And in 1973, when sending Christmas greetings, he remarked: “I never forget your wise counsels.” Blessed Oscar Romero was a priest filled with gratitude, and I was moved to learn that he had died precisely when celebrating the Eucharist, the highest act of thanksgiving.
Q. How did the meeting between Bishop Romero and Saint Josemaria go?
Saint Josemaria received him on the 8th of November. Their conversation lasted almost an hour and, when it ended, Bishop Romero told me that he had been deeply moved. He said that he had felt strengthened in his faith by Saint Josemaria’s words and that the founder of Opus Dei had embraced him, making him feel loved and accompanied. Bishop Romero called Saint Josemaria a “man of God” and took advantage of their meeting to invite him to come to Central America, which in fact became a reality in 1975.
Bishop Romero also had the opportunity on that trip to greet Blessed Paul VI, and he was happy to receive some words of encouragement from him. Afterwards he told me that this trip reminded him of his first years as a priest and seemed to him a gift from God.
“I bless Opus Dei in our archdiocese with the affection of a pastor and friend. Yours very affectionately, + O. Romero Archbishop 25-III-79” “I bless Opus Dei in our archdiocese with the affection of a pastor and friend. Yours very affectionately, + O. Romero Archbishop 25-III-79”
Q. Did his contact with you continue in later years?
Monsignor Alonso: I remember that on June 26, 1978, the third anniversary of Saint Josemaria’s transit to heaven, he came to celebrate Holy Mass in the crypt of Our Lady of Peace, where the founder’s mortal remains were then residing. I attended his Mass, along with Msgr. Francisco Vives. He gave a short homily filled with affection and gratitude to Saint Josemaria, and said that, right from the first moment of meeting him, he felt treated as a brother. And he also wrote these words in a letter.
As I said, this took place in 1978, a year after he had been named Archbishop of San Salvador. At that time, as he himself made known publicly, another priest of Opus Dei, Msgr. Fernando Saenz, was giving him spiritual guidance.
Q. How did you react to news of his death?
Monsignor Alonso: The tragic news was a great shock to me, while it also led me to want to accompany him with my prayer and have recourse to his intercession to ask for the Church in Latin America. I also gave thanks to God for the opportunity to get to know personally this man of God.
© www.opusdei.org / Published in Rene Bas’ Sunday Read Manila Times column with permission.