By announcing the canonization of Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Óscar Romero on the same day, Pope Francis wanted to draw a connection between two leading lights of the post-Vatican II church: the pope who saw the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) through to its conclusion, and the bishop whose social actions at the heart of a Latin America torn apart by ideological conflicts stands out as one of the finest manifestations of the Council’s teaching.
For sure, Francis is calling attention to two men who deeply marked him throughout his Latin American past. Through his exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Evangelization in the Modern World), Pope Paul VI significantly influenced the 1979 Puebla meeting where Argentinean theologians, the “teachers” of Bergoglio, put forward their own vision of liberation theology, giving substance to the preferential option for the poor. This was the very option for which Romero became one of the prophetic voices.
But when the church makes saints of people it, above all, highlights the current relevance of those put forward as examples. And for Pope Francis, neither Paul VI nor Óscar Romero is a vestige of the past.
Whether Francis speaks of “integral human development,” or criticizes “new forms of ideological colonization,” he is directly referring to Paul VI, the pope of Populorum Progressio (On the Progression of Peoples) and Humanae Vitae (On the Regulation of Human Births).
And when he talks of action in the existential peripheries, or of pastors “having the smell of their flock,” he is thinking of bishops like Romero — and others, like the Argentinian Servant of God, Enrique ÁngelAngelelli, who might also be beatified soon.
It is not surprising, therefore, that these two 20th century figures will be put forward as models to the youth of the 21st century by being canonized, the first at the end of the Synod assembly on youth in October, and the second either at the same synod gathering, or, more likely, during World Youth Day in Panama in January 2019.
—Nicolas Senèze, Rome