When the Pope canonized Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez (1917 –1980) as Saint of the Church, many in South America didn’t see anything special in the pronouncement, because in their minds, the man has been beatified decades ago, even before he was assassinated.
No other prelate epitomized Liberation Theology in the Catholic Church in the entire Latin America( even across the globe)more than Bishop Romero. He was the fourth Archbishop of San Salvador.
He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and politically induced tortures. Romero actively denounced violations of the human rights of the most vulnerable people and defended the principles of protecting lives, promoting human dignity and opposing all forms of violence.
He made politicians and gangsters tremble because he took no prisoners in his condemnation of social ills. In 1980, Romero was assassinated while officiating Mass in the chapel of the Hospital of Divine Providence.
During Romero’s beatification, Pope Francis stated, “His ministry was distinguished by his particular attention to the most poor and marginalized.”
In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 24 March as the “International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims” in recognition of the role of Archbishop Romero in defence of human rights.
Latin American church groups often proclaim Romero an unofficial patron saint of the Americas and El Salvador; Catholics in El Salvador often refer to him as “San Romero”, as well as “Monseñor Romero”.
Romero is also honored by the Church of England and Anglican Communion through the Calendar in Common Worship, as well as in at least one Lutheran liturgical calendar.
Archbishop Romero is also one of the ten 20th-century martyrs depicted in statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey in London. In 2008, Europe-based magazine A Different View included Romero among its 15 Champions of World Democracy.
In Nigeria, we dont want to get religious leaders to act their pact in social change. Yet we celebrate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, eulogise Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, venerate The Dalai Lama, Archbishop Sin was a constant throne in the flesh of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos of Philippines, we hailed such intervention. But whenever any Nigerian clergy makes a pronouncement deemed political, we attack his/her person, especially when such is not in “our political interest”..
With the power religious leaders wield in Nigeria, the easiest way to turn things around in this country will be through the involvement of religious leaders. Instead of shutting them off, we should encourage them to engage with power, speak truth to power and challenge power.
Religious leaders have a very important role to play in getting Nigeria to turn the corner.