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Pope Francis Declares Murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero A Martyr

Pope Francis declared slain Salvadoran archbishop Oscar Romero a martyr in anticipation over his possible beatification and possible sainthood. Romero was a champion of the poor and an advocate for civil rights during El Salvador’s bloody civil war between right wing guerrillas, (backed by the U.S.), and the leftist government. He was gunned down in 1980 by a right wing death squad as he celebrated mass. The declaration of martyrdom of Romero has been controversial with Pope Francis’ two predecessors. Romero was long rumored to have sympathies for Liberation Theology which mixes the tenets of Marxism with Catholic theology. They see the primary mission of the Church through Christ’s care for the poor and that it is their duty as Christians to fight for social justice. This did not sit well with either Pope John Paul or Pope Benedict.

Pope John Paul was a very vocal critic of anything that smacked of Marxism having left his native Poland because of the Communist takeover. Pope Benedict actively repressed Romero’s case because he felt that Romero’s ideologies were dangerous. Though Pope Francis condemns Liberation Theology in the abstract he is, in a way, a fellow traveler if not so dogmatically. His papacy has focused squarely on the same ideas of helping the poor and social justice that Romero fought for. The reality is that Romero is very popular in Latin America and perhaps it took a Latin American pope to clear the path for his canonization.

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