Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Romero will be canonized as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. The announcement comes three years after the church named him a martyr and following his beatification. Romero was a follower of liberation theology, which advocates for liberation from economic, political, and social oppression. He vocally opposed how the right-wing government – one the United States funded and supported – suppressed its opponents. On March 24, 1980 –at the beginning of El Salvador’s civil war – a right-wing death squad murdered him during a mass in a hospital chapel. During his funeral, the military opened fire on mourners and killed dozens more.
For decades, conservatives within the church impeded his canonization because they didn’t approve of his politics. But in 2014, a year or so after Pope Francis came into power, the Argentine pontiff “unlocked” his case for sainthood, according to NPR. Because the church already declared him a martyr, he only needed one miracle, instead of the regular two, attributed to him.
Despite the resistance to his canonization, for the people of El Salvador and those of Salvadoran descent, Romero is a symbol of hope. And the news comes at a time when both groups continue to struggle. In El Salvador, many continue fleeing gang violence. In the United States, many of their futures are uncertain now that the Trump Administration has ended Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a protection that allowed many Salvadorans to set roots in the country.
“This is coming at a time when the immigrant community, particularly the Salvadoran community, is being attacked by the federal administration,” Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo told the Los Angeles Times. “For me personally, Romero is a reminder that there are people who have paved the way, who have given their life to fight for equality and that what we’re living now has been lived before.”