Pope Francis has cleared the way for Archbishop Oscar Romero to be made a saint, declaring that the churchman murdered in El Salvador for standing up for the poor and oppressed should be a model for today's church. Francis signed a decree confirming a miracle attributed to Romero's intercession on Tuesday, the same day he approved a miracle for another important figure for the 20th century Catholic Church, Pope Paul VI, the Vatican said Wednesday. No date was set for either canonization, the AP reports. Romero was gunned down by right-wing death squads on March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass in a hospital chapel. The country's military dictatorship had vehemently opposed his preaching against the army's repression of the poor at the start of the country's 1980-1992 civil war.
Romero's sainthood case had been held up for years by the Vatican, primarily due to opposition from conservative Latin American churchmen who feared Romero's perceived association with liberation theology would embolden the movement that holds that Jesus' teachings require followers to fight for social and economic justice. But Pope Benedict XVI unblocked Romero's stalled sainthood case and Francis pushed it through, declaring him a martyr for the faith in 2015. The miracle that cleared the way for Romero's sainthood concerned the medically inexplicable cure of a pregnant, terminally ill Salvadoran woman who was "condemned to death" by illness but lived, and gave birth to a healthy child. (Read more sainthood stories.)