Romero Century: 1981-2017

1981 December 

On December 11th  the Salvadoran Army killed more than 800 civilians in a massacre that took place in and around the village of El Mozote, in Morazán department.  Many lesser-known massacres occurred at this time.

1983 March 

On March 6th Pope John Paul II made a pastoral visit to El Salvador and, although it had not been included in the prepared schedule, he demanded to be taken to pray at Romero’s tomb in the Cathedral.

1989  August

The film “Romero,” starring Raul Julia as Archbishop Romero, was released.  It made Romero familiar to many in the English-speaking world.

1989 November 

On 16 November at their residence on the campus of the Catholic University (UCA), six Jesuit priests - Ignacio Ellacuria, Segundo Montes, Ignacio Martin-Baro, Joaquín López y López, Juan Ramón Moreno, and Amando López - plus their housekeeper, Elba Ramos, and her daughter, Celina, were taken from their beds and summarily executed by a uniformed patrol of the Atlacatl Battalion.

1990 March  

At a massive celebration of the 10th anniversary of Romero’s martyrdom on March 24th, Archbishop Rivera Damas announced that he would open the process for Romero’s canonisation. To mark the occasion the archdiocese published the full texts of all Romero’s homilies and the transcription of his tape-recorded diary.

1992 January 

The Chapultepec Peace Accords were signed and brought a close to the Salvadoran civil war.

1993 March 

On March 5th the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador, established under the auspices of the United Nations, issued its report on the human rights abuses that had taken place during the war. Whilst unable to identify the marksman, it named Roberto D’Aubuisson as ordering the killing of Archbishop Romero which a death squad that he led carried out.  Soon after the report’s release, the Salvadoran government passed an Amnesty Law foreclosing the prosecution of war crimes in El Salvador.

1994 May  

With the necessary authorisations secured and the preparatory work completed, the diocesan process for Romero’s beatification was formally launched on May 12th.

1994 November 

Archbishop Rivera Damas died

1996 February

Pope John Paul made a second visit to El Salvador, where he once again visited Romero’s tomb.  He told catechists there that he was pleased that Romero’s memory was still alive among the people.

1996 November 

The diocesan process was formally closed and, with the blessing of the new archbishop, Fernando Sáenz Lacalle, the documentation was sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome with the positive recommendation that Romero be considered for beatification – Mgr Vincenzo Paglia being designated as Postulator of the Cause.

1998 July 

The statues of ten modern martyrs, including Archbishop Romero, were unveiled over the West Door of Westminster Abbey, London, in a religious ceremony with Queen Elizabeth and many leaders of the Anglican Communion present.

2000 May  

One of the highlights of the millennium jubilee year celebrations was a solemn ceremony at Rome's ancient Colosseum where Pope John Paul II paid tribute to the Christian martyrs of the 20th century, singling out for particular mention Archbishop Romero. Soon afterwards the Cause for Romero’s Beatification was brought to a halt and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican set up a panel to investigate Romero’s orthodoxy as evidenced in his homilies and pastoral statements.

2005 April

John Paul II died; and Joseph Ratzinger was elected to succeed him, taking the name Pope Benedict XVI.

2007 May 

On May 9th in a press conference aboard the flight to Brazil to attend the CELAM Meeting in Aparecida, Pope Benedict responded to a journalist’s question about Romero as follows: “That Romero as a person merits beatification, I have no doubt.” These words were removed from the Vatican website’s transcription of the remarks.

2012 December 

Pope Benedict told Mgr Paglia, the Postulator of Romero’s Cause, and Archbishop Müller, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that Romero’s Cause could move forward.


Pope Benedict XVI resigned in February and Jorge Bergoglio was elected in March as the first Latin American-born Pope, taking the name Francis.

2013 May 

Pope Francis gave fresh momentum to the paralysed beatification Cause with the announcement that the Cause which had been blocked (in Pope Francis’ words, “for prudential reasons”) was now definitively ‘unblocked’.

2013 July

The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Müller, confirmed that there was no longer any doctrinal reservation standing against Archbishop Romero. The CDF had given their ‘nihil obstat’ or approval of his cause for beatification.

2014 August

Pope Francis told reporters during an airborne papal press conference that, “For me, Romero is a man of God.”  He noted that “The postulators must move now because there are no impediments.”

2015 January 

On January 8th a panel of nine theologians advising the Vatican's Congregation for Causes of the Saints voted unanimously to recognize Oscar Romero as a martyr in odium fidei (out of hatred of the faith). This confirmed that no miracle was necessary prior to beatification.

2015 February

The Congregation for the Causes of the Saints at its plenary meeting on February 3rd accepted the advice of its theologians and recommended Romero’s beatification.  The same day Pope Francis issued the Decree for the Beatification.

2015 May 

Romero’s beatification took place in the Plaza Salvador del Mundo in San Salvador on Pentecost Saturday, May 23rd, with 100 cardinals and bishops, 1400 priests, and around half a million lay people in attendance. A solar halo appeared round the sun at the moment that the decree of beatification was formally declaimed.

Blessed Oscar Romero – pray for us!

2016 January  

In moving towards his canonisation, for which a verified miracle is required, details of three extraordinary cures attributed to the intercession of Blessed Oscar Romero were sent to Rome for examination by the medical and theological panels which advise the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. However, it was felt that they were unlikely to fulfil the demanding conditions laid down for a miracle. 

2016 February 

The San Salvador diocesan process of the Cause for Beatification of Fr Rutilio Grande, begun in 2015, reached its final stages, having encountered no significant obstacles. Given Pope Francis’ unmistakable support for the Cause, Fr Anton Witwer, the appointed Postulator in Rome, stood ready to move the Cause forward as speedily as possible. In 2017 Fr Witwer was replaced as postulator by fellow Jesuit, Fr Pascual Cebollada. 

2016 November

A potential miracle was identified which seemed likely to meet the criteria for a canonisation miracle. Mrs Cecilia Maribel Flores de Rivas from San Salvador, diagnosed as fatally ill during pregnancy, made a rapid and complete recovery after seeking the intercession of Blessed Oscar Romero. A diocesan tribunal was set up to investigate the case, and it reported positively early in 2017. 

2017 March

The potential miracle was submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome with all the corresponding medical records and documentation. There was an understanding that the Cause would be dealt with by the Congregation as a matter of urgency. 

2017 June

San Salvador's auxiliary bishop, Gregorio Rosa Chavez, was appointed a cardinal by Pope Francis in an extraordinary affirmation of Archbishop Romero and his legacy. Bishop Rosa Chavez had worked closely with Archbishop Romero and for thirty five years had doggedly kept the cause for Romero's beatification alive. Many interpreted the appointment as the equivalent of making Romero himself a cardinal. 

2017 August 

The centenary of Blessed Oscar Romero’s birth was an occasion for joyful celebrations worldwide. Cardinal Rosa Chavez led a huge pilgrimage on foot from Romero's tomb in San Salvador to his birthplace in Ciudad Barrios, a walk of 157 kilometres. Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, the Archbishop of Santiago in Chile, went to El Salvador as the special envoy of Pope Francis for the celebratory masses on 15 August, Romero's 100th birthday. 

2017 September

Westminster Abbey hosted a special Romero Evensong on Saturday, 23 September, attended by bishops and archbishops of the Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox churches, and leaders of other churches, with a congregation of some 1300. Emeritus Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, preached. The service was the occasion for the first performance of a specially commissioned work by James MacMillan, entitled 'A Special Appeal'. This anthem brought together words from Psalm 31 with extracts from Romero's penultimate homily. You can listen to a recording of the service HERE

2018 March

On 6 March, Pope Francis authorised the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree recognising the miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Oscar Romero. This is the final stage before Romero is officially proclaimed as a saint. 

2018 May

On 19 May, at an ordinary public consistory called by Pope Francis, Romero’s canonization was confirmed and formalised. Sunday 14 October 2018 was announced as the date for the ceremony to take place in Rome. 

2018 October

On 14 October in St Peter's Square, Pope Francis declared the martyred Archbishop of San Salvador saint, alongside Pope Paul VI, whom Romero had met many times, and five other new saints of the Church. 

Saint Oscar Romero, pray for us!

Century of Romero