Christian faith does not cut us off from the world but immerses us in it; the church is not a fortress set apart from the city. The church follows Jesus, who lived, worked, struggled, and died in the midst of a city, in the polis.
– Archbishop Oscar Romero
One of the touchstone moments in my life was worshiping in the chapel in which Father Romero was assassinated as he celebrated the Mass. While worshiping that morning, when it came time for the Eucharist, defying doctrine I joined the line of congregants to walk forward to receive the host from the priest who was officiating. In that moment I wanted to be among and to stand with the Salvadorans who had gathered to worship and to remember on that Sunday morning. I don’t think Father Romero would have minded. Following the service I walked through Father Romero’s small hermitage which was just down the walkway from the chapel. Those of us who live in the affluence and the relative safety of the United States have little idea of the poverty and oppression that existed in El Salvador and other countries in Central America at that time, and therefore don’t realize the impact and importance of the witness Father Romero had.
Pope Francis, I understand and applaud your desire to recognize the work and the witness of Father Romero. For too long, the Church has tried to push aside who he was and what he said and what he did. But, please, Pope Francis, don’t make him a saint. Don’t put him on a pedestal that makes it easy for others to pretend there was something special about him that the rest of us can not attain or some work he did that we are not also called to do. If anything, strip him of his title of Archbishop and restore him to being a simple priest. For, in the end, that was who he was and how he lived. Walking with and caring for the people in his parish. And, it is that, which made and makes all the difference.