Pope Francis clears way for murdered Oscar Romero to become a saint

Pope Francis has paved the way for murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero to be made a saint in the Catholic Church.

The Vatican announced on Wednesday that Francis had attributed a miracle to the former archbishop of San Salvador, who was killed by a right-wing death squad, clearing the road for him to be canonised early next year.


It culminates years of efforts from the pontiff, who began the process of making Romero a saint by recognising him as a martyr when he first entered office. Around 250,000 people attended his beatification – an early stage on the path to becoming a saint –– in San Salvador in May 2015.

Although martyrs do not need to have a miracle attributed to them to be beatified they do in order to become a saint.

The move has been blocked under two previous popes by more conservative elements within the Vatican who dislike Romero's links with liberation theology – a branch of thinking that originated in South America and is considered liberal leaning by some traditionalists.

His opponents argue that he was too political and his death did not meet the standards for martyrdom. Some in Rome argued that Romero was killed for political reasons.

He had received numerous death threats and was shot dead by a sniper while celebrating mass in a hospital chapel on March 24, 1980, a day after he called on the army to stop killing innocent civilians.

Priests attend the beatification ceremony of the late Archbishop of San Salvador Oscar Romero at El Salvador del Mundo square in San Salvador, May 23, 2015Reuters

His murder came at the start of San Salvador's bitter civil war that killed more than 75,000 people. At his funeral the army opened fire on the crowd of more than 100,000.

Throughout Romero's later life he was a vocal supporter of the oppressed and spoke strongly against the country's right-wing government at the time.

His murder was one of the most shocking of the long conflict between a series of US-backed governments and leftist rebels in which thousands were killed by right-wing and military death squads.

No one was ever brought to justice for his killing but last year a Salvadoran judge reopened the case. The main suspect is a former soldier whose case was reopened after the country's constitutional court repealed a previous amnesty.