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Thousands of people stay up all night to watch the Pope make martyred Salvadoran Archbishop who was gunned down by a right-wing death squad as he performed a mass into a saint

Thousands stay up to watch Pope make martyred Salvadoran Archbishop a saint 

  • Pope Francis declared Pope Paul VI and martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero saints today 
  • Archbishop Romero was murdered as he celebrated Mass on March 24, 1980, in a hospital chapel
  • The previous day he had delivered a sermon demanding an end to the army's repression in El Salvador
  • Thousands of Salvadorans, many of whom see Romero as a hero, watched the canonisation from San Salvador

Pope Francis today made saints of Pope Paul VI and martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero - who was shot dead by right-wing death squads after criticising El Salvador's military rule.
The Pope praised the two towering and controversial figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church as prophets who shunned wealth and looked out for the poor as he canonized them at a Mass in St Peter's Square before some 70,000 faithful, a handful of presidents and 5,000 Salvadoran pilgrims.
Many Latin Americans traveled to Rome to honor a man considered a hero while tens of thousands more Salvadorans stayed up all night at home to watch the Mass on giant TV screens outside the San Salvador cathedral where Romero's remains are entombed.

Thousands stayed up all night in San Salvador, El Salvador to watch live TV images from the Vatican where martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero was declared a Saint by Pope Francis today

A man cheers as he watches the canonisation: Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was murdered as he celebrated Mass on March 24, 1980, in a hospital chapel
A man cheers as he watches the canonisation: Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was murdered as he celebrated Mass on March 24, 1980, in a hospital chapel
A day before he was killed, he had delivered the latest in a series of sermons demanding an end to the army's repression - sermons that had enraged El Salvador's leaders
A day before he was killed, he had delivered the latest in a series of sermons demanding an end to the army's repression - sermons that had enraged El Salvador's leaders
Pictured: A portrait of Saint Oscar Romero is seen as Salvadorans venerate him for the first time after his canonisation

Pictured: A portrait of Saint Oscar Romero is seen as Salvadorans venerate him for the first time after his canonisation

In a sign of the strong influence that Paul and Romero had on the first Latin American pope, Francis wore the blood-stained rope belt that Romero wore when he was gunned down by right-wing death squads in 1980, and also used Paul's staff, chalice and pallium vestment.

Paul, who was pope from 1963-1978, presided over the modernizing yet polarizing church reforms of the 1960s. He was the pope of Francis' formative years as a young priest in Argentina and was instrumental in giving rise to the Latin American church's 'preferential option for the poor' that Francis has made his own.

Francis also has a close personal connection to Romero, and like him lived through right-wing military dictatorships when Francis was in Argentina. Francis was responsible for eventually declaring Romero a martyr for his fearless denunciations of the military regime at the start of El Salvador's 1980-1992 civil war.

In his homily, Francis called Paul a 'prophet of a church turned outwards' to care for the faraway poor. He said Romero gave up his security and life to 'be close to the poor and his people.'

San Salvador, early morning October 14: The two banners hanging from the National Palace behind read in Spanish: 'The cause of all our illnesses are the oligarchy,' left, and 'May my blood be a seed for freedom'

San Salvador, early morning October 14: The two banners hanging from the National Palace behind read in Spanish: 'The cause of all our illnesses are the oligarchy,' left, and 'May my blood be a seed for freedom'

Catholic faithful await the canonisation ceremony of the blessed Monsignor Oscar Romero in his hometown of Ciudad Barrios

Catholic faithful await the canonisation ceremony of the blessed Monsignor Oscar Romero in his hometown of Ciudad Barrios

Pope Francis elevated Pope Paul VI and Oscar Romero to sainthood, praising the two towering figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church as prophets who shunned wealth and looked out for the poor
Pope Francis elevated Pope Paul VI and Oscar Romero to sainthood, praising the two towering figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church as prophets who shunned wealth and looked out for the poor

And he warned that those who don't follow their example to leave behind everything, including their wealth, risk never truly finding God.

'Wealth is dangerous and - says Jesus - even makes one's salvation difficult,' Francis said.

'The love of money is the root of all evils,' he added. 'Where money is at the centre, there is no room for God or for man.'

For many Salvadorans, it was the culmination of a fraught, politicized campaign to have the church formally honor a man who spoke out for the rights of landless peasants and the poor at a time when the US-backed right-wing government was seeking to quash a leftist rebellion.

'We couldn't stay home on this historic day,' said Jose Martinez, who with his wife and two young children joined the crowds outside the San Salvador cathedral. 'I want my children to know Monsignor, our saint, that he was a great man who raised his voice to defend his pueblo, and for that they killed him.'

A nun takes pictures of a photo exhibit on El Salvador's martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero

A nun takes pictures of a photo exhibit on El Salvador's martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero

Romero's hometown of Ciudad Barrios: Almost immediately after his death, Romero became an icon of the South American left and is frequently listed as one of the world's most influential human rights campaigners

Romero's hometown of Ciudad Barrios: Almost immediately after his death, Romero became an icon of the South American left and is frequently listed as one of the world's most influential human rights campaigners

Romero's influence continues to resonate with El Salvador's youth as the country endures brutal gang violence that has made the Central American nation one of the world's most violent 
Romero's influence continues to resonate with El Salvador's youth as the country endures brutal gang violence that has made the Central American nation one of the world's most violent 

Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was murdered as he celebrated Mass on March 24, 1980, in a hospital chapel. A day before he was killed, he had delivered the latest in a series of sermons demanding an end to the army's repression - sermons that had enraged El Salvador's leaders.

Almost immediately after his death, Romero became an icon of the South American left and is frequently listed along with Martin Luther King Jr and Mohandas Gandhi as one of the world's most influential human rights campaigners. The United Nations commemorates the anniversary of his death each year.

But his popularity with the left led to a decades-long delay in his saint-making cause at the Vatican, where right-wing cardinals led by Colombian Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo warned that his elevation would embolden Marxist revolutionaries.

Eventually Pope Benedict XVI unblocked the cause and Francis saw it through to its conclusion Sunday.

Vatican City: Mass in St Peter's Square before some 70,000 faithful, a handful of presidents and 5,000 Salvadoran pilgrims

Vatican City: Mass in St Peter's Square before some 70,000 faithful, a handful of presidents and 5,000 Salvadoran pilgrims

Dancers perform during the overnight vigil moments before the Vatican declared Oscar Romero a saint

Dancers perform during the overnight vigil moments before the Vatican declared Oscar Romero a saint

Pictured: A woman waits all night to watch live TV images from the Vatican from San Salvador early this morning

Pictured: A woman waits all night to watch live TV images from the Vatican from San Salvador early this morning

Romero's influence continues to resonate with El Salvador's youth as the country endures brutal gang violence that has made the Central American nation one of the world's most violent. 

Paul VI, for his part, is best known for having presided over the final sessions of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 church meetings that opened up the Catholic Church to the world. Under his auspices, the church agreed to allow liturgy to be celebrated in the vernacular rather than in Latin and called for greater roles for the laity and improved relations with people of other faiths.

Paul is also remembered for his two most important encyclicals, or teaching documents, which have had a profound effect on the church: One denounced the mounting inequality between rich and poor, and the other reaffirmed the Catholic church's opposition to artificial contraception.   

Francis has also adopted the 'church of the poor' ethos that Paul embodied when Paul formally renounced wearing the bejeweled papal tiara.

Paul is also very important to Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, whom Paul made a cardinal in 1977. Officials said the 91-year-old Benedict was too weak to attend Sunday's canonization, so Francis paid him a visit on the eve of the Mass.   

Portraits of the new saints hung on Saint Peter's Basilica along with those of five others, including an orphaned youth and a German nun.

'Paul VI spent his life for Christ's Gospel, crossing new boundaries and becoming its witness in proclamation and in dialogue, a prophet of a Church turned outwards, looking to those far away and taking care of the poor,' Francis said.

'It is wonderful that together with him and the other new saints today, there is Archbishop Romero, who left the security of the world, even his own safety, in order to give his life according to the Gospel, close to the poor and to his people,' he added.

Evelio Rivas holds a cross made of bamboo, symbolizing El Salvador's martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero

Evelio Rivas holds a cross made of bamboo, symbolizing El Salvador's martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero

Hundreds of pilgrims from across Central America celebrated the impending canonization in El Salvador's capital.

The visitors, many in clothes printed with Romero's face, gathered in front of his tomb, in the crypt of San Salvador's central cathedral, and at the Hospital of Divine Providence chapel, where he was assassinated.

'We are arriving here to honour the memory of Monsignor Romero, who took his faith to the point of giving his life for what he believed was right,' said Francisco Navarro, a 51-year-old Honduran, at the chapel along with some 30 of his compatriots.

'Since before he was killed, he defeated his killers by forgiving them. Because he knew they were going to kill him,' added university professor Julia Lainez.

For a long time, efforts to recognise Romero met with heavy opposition from conservative Catholics and the Salvadoran right, who saw veiled Marxism in his sermons.

Catholic faithful look at candles dedicated to Romero in Ciudad Barrios, some 102 miles from San Salvador

But Francis - the first Latin American pope - beatified Romero as a 'martyr' in 2015, to popular acclaim.

Paul VI - who encouraged Romero in his struggle - was the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to attempt to reform the Vatican's powerful and unruly Curia, the church's governing body. It was a challenge Francis also took on.

Romero is praised for standing up for peasant rights in the face of a right-wing backlash which painted him as a radical supporter of 'liberation' theology in his small, impoverished central American nation.

On March 24, 1980, the man dubbed the 'voice of those without voice' was shot in the heart, killed by a single bullet as he prepared communion. 

His killing came at the start of a bloody civil war which claimed some 75,000 lives.

Relics of each new saint were carried to the altar - part of a bone for Romero and the shirt Paul VI was wearing when he was stabbed in an assassination attempt at Manila airport in 1970.

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