SALT LAKE CITY — Parishioners from all over the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City gathered at the Cathedral of the Madeleine Nov. 5 to celebrate a Thanksgiving Mass for the sanctification of Archbishop Oscar Romero and Pope Paul VI, who were canonized Oct. 14.
Bishop Oscar A. Solis presided at the Mass. Concelebrating were some diocesan priests who are originally from El Salvador: Father Marco Tulio Lopez, pastor of Saint Andrew Parish in Riverton; Fr. Rafael Murillo, administrator of Notre Dame de Lourdes Parish in Price; Fr. Jose Fidel Barrera-Cruz, administrator of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Salt Lake City; and Fr. Fernando Velasco, administrator of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Hyde Park. Also concelebrating were Fr. Martin Diaz, rector of the cathedral, and Fr. John Evans, pastor of St. Thomas More Parish.
Greeting those present, Bishop Solis said it was a special day to give thanks to the Lord for the gift of the saints.
“As a people of God in the Church of Utah, we gather to give thanks to the Lord for the light of Saints Oscar Romero and Pope Paul VI,” Bishop Solis said.
Emphasizing that Archbishop Romero had as a central mission the protection and respect of human dignity, Bishop Solis said that the new saint never gave up, despite the challenges and hardships of his time.
As prelate of San Salvador from 1977 to 1980, St. Oscar Romero was assassinated while celebrating Mass at the chapel of the Divine Providence cancer hospital, a day after calling on the El Salvador government to stop violating human rights. He was known to preach against the atrocities of his country’s civil war, which raged from 1979 to 1992. During that time, many civilians, including priests and consecrated religious, were killed by military death squads. He also spoke about the Church’s teaching of the preferential option for the poor.
Pope Paul VI was elected in 1963; he died in 1978, having implemented many of the reforms called for by the Second Vatican Council.
“Saint Pope Paul VI guided the Church to the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, prompting the Church to renew its efforts on behalf of evangelization and visionary discipleship,” Bishop Solis said.
At the Nov. 5 Mass, Fr. Lopez was the homilist.
“Dear brothers and sisters, we are gathered here this evening to celebrate and give thanks for the canonization of Paul VI and Archbishop Oscar Romero, who were sanctified on Oct. 14 by Pope Francis,” Fr. Lopez said.
Thanking Bishop Solis for presiding at the celebration, Fr. Lopez proceeded to narrate his memories of Archbishop Romero’s legacy in El Salvador, where he is originally from.
“I was 10 years old when Archbishop Romero was assassinated,” Fr. Lopez said. “He was the voice of the voiceless, the voice of the Church. He was a man of prayer, spiritual direction, strength in his Christianity. His charity and solidarity with the poor were not just acts of social assistance, they were an expression of his love for God and for the people.”
The Mass was a celebration of the response of Archbishop Romero and Pope Paul VI’s response to God’s calling, Fr. Lopez said. “They were two great men that gave great service for the Church.”
Many Salvadorans who live in Utah and members of the general Catholic community who attended the Mass were moved by the canonizations.
“I wanted to be here today to put my life in the hands of Saint Romero,” said Juanita Benitez, a Sacred Heart parishioner.