Beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero slated for May 23

(Photo: REUTERS / Jose Cabezas)People look at a picture of slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero at the national cathedral in San Salvador February 3, 2015. Pope Francis on Tuesday ruled that Romero, who was murdered by a right-wing death squad in 1980 and is an icon of the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America, had died as a martyr and will be beatified, the Vatican said.

Preparations for the beatification of prominent El Salvador hero Archbishop Oscar Romero are underway with the ceremony scheduled on May 23, according to the promoter of the prelate's sainthood cause.

Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, who spearheaded Romero's sainthood cause, announced that the beatification ceremony would be officiated by Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, at the Plaza Divino Salvador del Mundo in San Salvador.

"Romero, from heaven, wants every Salvadoran to walk the path of peace and justice," Paglia told reporters at a news conference in San Salvador on March 11, Catholic News Service reported.

He described the impending beatification as a "gift for the world," particularly for the people of El Salvador, whom Romero served until his assassination in 1980.

Last month, Pope Francis decreed that the slain Salvadoran archbishop was a martyr and had been killed "in hatred of the faith," paving the way for his beatification. Usually, a candidate for beatification has to have a miracle attributed to him.

Romero's beatification accelerated rapidly after Francis had been elected in 2013, the first pope from Latin America.

Since his beatification cause began in 1993, the process had been painstakingly slow, weighing down the chances of the popular Salvadoran prelate, who advocated for the poor.

His detractors branded him as a follower of liberation theology, which some conservatives in the Vatican disavowed, saying the movement ran contrary to the teachings of Christ.

But Paglia and his colleagues managed to gather enough testimony to clarify certain matters about the pastoral work of Romero, whom assassins shot dead on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass in a San Salvador hospital, during the height of the country's civil war.

"He was killed at the altar," Paglia said, noting that the prelate could have been an easier target at home or on the street. "Through him, they wanted to strike the church that flowed from the Second Vatican Council."

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