March 16, 2015 — The Vatican has announced that Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero will be beatified in San Salvador on May 23. Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia announced the beatification date on the eve of the anniversary of the assassination of a close friend of Archbishop Romero: Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande, the first priest executed by Salvadoran death squads on March 12, 1977.
On February 3, Pope Francis formally recognized that Archbishop Romero, who was shot and killed on March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass in San Salvador, was murdered “in hatred of the faith” — and not for purely political reasons. Last month, the Vatican also announced that the beatification process for Fr. Grande had been opened.
“It is impossible to understand Romero without understanding Rutilio Grande,” said Archbishop Paglia, chief promoter of the archbishop’s sainthood cause, at a February news conference.
Scholars and theologians agree that Archbishop Romero was strongly influenced by the pastoral work that Fr. Grande carried out in poor rural communities in northern San Salvador.
Archbishop Romero once said: “When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought, ‘If they have killed him for doing what he did, then I, too, have to walk the same path.’”
The Italian newspaper Avvenire reported that the archbishop met Fr. Grande in 1967 at the seminary of San Jose de la Montana, where the Jesuit taught.
According to one colleague, Fr. Grande believed the only solution to “the evils of Salvador” lay in taking the Gospel to the people. He was convinced that by following Christ and being inspired by love, the Gospel could transform people and institutions more deeply than any political program or policy, the newspaper reported.
At Fr. Grande’s funeral, Archbishop Romero said “the liberation Fr. Grande preached was inspired by faith.”
Salvadorans who knew Fr. Grande are proud that one of their own is being considered for sainthood. “We are all peasants here, and many of us met him and witnessed how Fr. Grande gave his life for his people … we are very thankful,” said Francisco Orellana, 70. Two others were murdered with Fr. Grande: Manuel Solorzano, 72, and Nelson Rutilio Lemus, 16. [Sources: Catholic News Service, CatholicPhilly.com]