VATICAN CITY – The Latest on Catholic Church canonizations on Sunday (all times local).
Pope Francis has declared Pope Paul VI and slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero saints, reciting in Latin the rite of canonization at the start of Mass in St. Peter’s Square.
After hearing brief biographies of Paul, Romero and five other people canonized Sunday, Francis declared them saints and “decreed that they are to be venerated as such by the whole church.”
The crowd of thousands in St. Peter’s Square applauded as Francis pronounced the rite. Among them were some 5,000 Salvadoran pilgrims who traveled to Rome to honor their hero, Romero, who stood up to El Salvador’s brutal military dictatorship to defend the rights of the poor and was slain as he said Mass.
Pope Francis is presiding over the canonization of two of the towering figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church: Pope Paul VI, who oversaw the modernizing church reforms of the 1960s, and Archbishop Oscar Romero, a human rights icon who was murdered for his defense of El Salvador’s poor.
In a sign of the strong influence both men had on history’s first Latin American pope, Francis wore the blood-stained rope belt that Romero wore when he was gunned down in 1980 and also used Paul VI’s staff, chalice and pallium vestment.
As Francis processed in at the start of Mass, portraits of the two men fluttered in the breeze from the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica, along with five others being canonized in a service aimed at showing young people that holiness can be achieved in every walk of life.
Some 5,000 Salvadoran pilgrims travelled to Rome and tens of thousands more Salvadorans stayed up all night at home to watch it on giant TV screens outside the San Salvador cathedral where Romero’s remains are entombed.
For many it was the culmination of a fraught and politicized campaign to have the church formally honor a man who publicly denounced the repression by El Salvador’s military dictatorship at the start of the country’s 1980-1992 civil war.