2 'Towering Figures' of Catholicism Are Now Saints

Francis canonizes Archbishop Oscar Romero, Pope Paul VI
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 14, 2018 6:02 AM CDT

(Newser) – Pope Francis on Sunday praised two of the towering figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church as prophets who shunned wealth and looked out for the poor as he canonized the modernizing Pope Paul VI and martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. Francis declared the two men saints at a Mass in St. Peter's Square before tens of thousands of pilgrims, a handful of presidents, and some 5,000 Salvadoran pilgrims. 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, reports the AP. In a sign of the strong influence Paul and Romero 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 used Paul's staff, chalice, and pallium vestment.

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Paul presided over the modernizing yet polarizing church reforms of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 church meetings that opened up the Catholic Church to the world. In his homily, Francis called Paul, the pope of his formative years as a young priest in Argentina, a "prophet of a church turned outwards" to care for the faraway poor. He said Romero gave up his security and life to "be close to the poor and his people." Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was murdered by El Salvador's right-wing death squads over his fearless defense of the poor as he celebrated Mass on March 24, 1980. Almost immediately after his death, Romero became an icon of the South American left and is frequently listed along with Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi as one of the world's most influential human rights campaigners.

(Read more Oscar Romero stories.)

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