New saint ‘keeps watch’ over Hispanic Catholic community

Latin-American Catholics celebrate the canonization of St. Oscar Romero

Avatar

Denver’s Queen of Peace Parish was filled with faithful Salvadorians and other Catholics from the United States and diverse Latin-American countries Oct. 14, all celebrating with deep devotion the canonization of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, whom Pope Francis declared a saint that same day.

Auxiliary Bishop of Denver Jorge Rodriguez celebrated a Spanish-language Mass at the Denver parish and highlighted the saint’s words as Archbishop of San Salvador in his homily: “If God accepts the sacrifice of my life, let my blood be a seed of freedom and the sign that hope will soon be a reality.”

“Archbishop Romero practiced Christian virtue to the highest degree: to the point of giving up his life; to the point of martyrdom,” Bishop Rodriguez said.

He highlighted Archbishop Romero’s “faith in Christ, his love for the poor, and his complete dedication to the advocacy and defense of their dignity as people and children of God.”

“[He was a pastor] who opted for the poor, for the oppressed, for those persecuted by the government, for those whose dignity and rights were violated with impunity. He was, as he himself said, ‘The voice of the voiceless,’” Bishop Rodriguez assured.

AURORA, CO – OCTOBER 14: Bishop Jorge Rodriguez celebrates Mass for newly canonized Archbishop Óscar Romero at Queen of Peace Catholic Parish on October 14, 2018, in Aurora, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Moreover, the prelate affirmed that St. Oscar Romero reminds the faithful that, “at times, love of neighbor requires social and political commitment, which can even take the form of prophetic denunciation, of the defense of excluded rights and of committed action.”

“We also live in the midst of injustices, of our own brothers and sisters who are deprived of their liberty in detention centers for not possessing documents; of immigrants whose rights are violated and find themselves separated from their families; of our brothers and sisters who day after day leave home fearful of being arrested… while they work honestly to offer a future to their children,” Bishop Rodriguez said.

“According to Catholic teaching, when we are dealing with human beings who possess inviolable and unalienable rights, we need to act respecting their dignity… allowing everyone to have access to what they need… especially helping the poor in a spirit of solidarity,” Bishop Rodriguez told the Denver Catholic in a previous  interview, in which he also quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood… [and] immigrants are obliged… to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens” (2241).

In that interview, he explained that, with the common good in mind, comprehensive policies can be created, keeping in mind the tension between the immigrant’s right to migrate and the State’s right to control its borders. Such policies could make a “both-and” of respecting the human person and the law, instead of an “either-or.” These laws, he assured, need to be at the service of the human person.

During his homily, the bishop called those present to action: “It is urgent that we help these brothers and sisters, that we be by their side, denounce the trampling of their rights, and participate in the political battle for a comprehensive immigration reform.”

AURORA, CO – OCTOBER 14: Parishioners celebrate the canonization of Archbishop Óscar Romero during Mass at Queen of Peace Catholic Parish on October 14, 2018, in Aurora, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Moreover, Bishop Rodriguez brought attention to El Salvador’s Civil War from 1980 to 1992 — although its origin can be traced back the 1960s — which left more then 75,000 dead civilians and 9,000 missing.

“Many of you, or many of your family members, came to this country fleeing death,” he told the congregation. “Over so much suffering and over you and your families, now a Salvadorian saint keeps watch: St. Oscar Romero, whom even some of you here today met personally.”

Following the Eucharistic celebration, the faithful assembled at the parish center to honor the martyr’s canonization with dances and traditional dishes.

One of the attendants was Deacon Edgar Valle, from Presentation of Our Lord Parish in Denver, who met Archbishop Romero personally.

“He transformed my life. He’s a spiritual father for me. I have read all of his homilies at length, which have helped me as a deacon and preacher,” he told the Denver Catholic.

Thus, many Salvadorians celebrated those prophetic words of St. Oscar Romero before he was assassinated: “As a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection: If they kill me, I shall rise in the Salvadorian people.”

COMING UP: The Pell case: Developments down under

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

In three weeks, a panel of senior judges will hear Cardinal George Pell’s appeal of the unjust verdict rendered against him at his retrial in March, when he was convicted of “historical sexual abuse.” That conviction did not come close to meeting the criterion of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is fundamental to criminal law in any rightly-ordered society. The prosecution offered no corroborating evidence sustaining the complainant’s charge. The defense demolished the prosecution’s case, as witness after witness testified that the alleged abuse simply could not have happened under the circumstances charged — in a busy cathedral after Mass, in a secured space.

Yet the jury, which may have ignored instructions from the trial judge as to how evidence should be construed, returned a unanimous verdict of guilty. At the cardinal’s sentencing, the trial judge never once said that he agreed with the jury’s verdict; he did say, multiple times, that he was simply doing what the law required him to do. Cardinal Pell’s appeal will be just as devastating to the prosecution’s case as was his defense at both his first trial (which ended with a hung jury, believed to have favored acquittal) and the retrial. What friends of the cardinal, friends of Australia, and friends of justice must hope is that the appellate judges will get right what the retrial jury manifestly got wrong.

That will not be easy, for the appellate judges will have been subjected to the same public and media hysteria over Cardinal Pell that was indisputably a factor in his conviction on charges demonstrated to be, literally, incredible. Those appellate judges will also know, however, that the reputation of the Australian criminal justice system is at stake in this appeal. And it may be hoped that those judges will display the courage and grit in the face of incoming fire that the rest of the Anglosphere has associated with “Australia” since the Gallipoli campaign in World War I.

In jail for two months now, the cardinal has displayed a remarkable equanimity and good cheer that can only come from a clear conscience. The Melbourne Assessment Prison allows its distinguished prisoner few visitors, beyond his legal team; but those who have gone to the prison intending to cheer up a friend have, in correspondence with me, testified to having found themselves cheered and consoled by Cardinal Pell — a man whose spiritual life was deeply influenced by the examples of Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More during Henry VIII’s persecution of the Church in 16th-century England. The impact of over a half-century of reflection on those epic figures is now being displayed to Cardinal Pell’s visitors and jailers, during what he describes as his extended “retreat.”

Around the world, and in Australia itself, calmer spirits than those baying for George Pell’s blood (and behaving precisely like the deranged French bigots who cheered when the innocent Captain Alfred Dreyfus was condemned to a living death on Devil’s Island) have surfaced new oddities — to put it gently — surrounding the Pell Case.

How is it, for example, that the complainant’s description of the sexual assault he alleges Cardinal Pell committed bears a striking resemblance — to put it gently, again — to an incident of clerical sexual abuse described in Rolling Stone in 2011? How is it that edited transcripts of a post-conviction phone conversation between the cardinal and his cathedral master of ceremonies (who had testified to the sheer physical impossibility of the charges against Pell being true) got into the hands (and thence into the newspaper writing) of a reporter with a history of anti-Pell bias and polemic? What is the web of relationships among the virulently anti-Pell sectors of the Australian media, the police in the state of Victoria, and senior Australian political figures with longstanding grievances against the politically incorrect George Pell? What is the relationship between the local Get Pell gang and those with much to lose from his efforts to clean up the Vatican’s finances?

And what is the state of serious investigative journalism in Australia, when these matters are only investigated by small-circulation journals and independent researchers?

An “unsafe” verdict in Australia is one a jury could not rationally have reached. Friends of truth must hope that the appellate judges, tuning out the mob, will begin to restore safety and rationality to public life Down Under in June.

Featured image by CON CHRONIS/AFP/Getty Images