It turns out that the Vatican has at long last acknowledged that Óscar Romero was a martyr and a saint. Not only as a priest and an archbishop of the Catholic Church did he stand up to the US backed powers of violence and oppression in his home, but he did this also as a defender of the powerless. Fair play to the Church for finally recognising what the rest of us have known all along. So why the long delay, especially when it took all of three minutes to decide that John Paul II was the saintliest of saintly popes? We’ll no doubt hear a huge amount about the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints and all the red tape around stating the obvious in Rome. The Congregation, we’ll all be told, had to look into his first school report cards to see if he ever got a sum wrong, and ask his neighbours if he ever cut the grass after nine o’clock at night, but the truth is that for too long the Church simply didn’t want to give riffraff like Romero their halos. The most disturbing truth is that Archbishop Romero was killed by a bullet that came from a gun that was supplied by money from the US’ CIA with the blessing of moneylenders and arms dealers in the Vatican.
The Church is a complicated beast; made up of millions of very different people and political opinions – and not all of them are always (or ever) holy. Saint John Paul II was a firm ideological supporter of the spread of free market capitalism at any cost; even the cost of American backed régimes which brutally suppressed democratically elected governments and tortured and murdered thousands of people in the name of North American greed. Saint John Paul has gone now to his eternal reward, and a wind of change is blowing over the imperial city. An archbishop from one of capitalism’s victims in South America is now on the chair of Saint Peter and a different drum beat is being played. For decades we have been brainwashed with the idea that Western capitalism is the victor and therefore the good guy of history. Capitalism has been equated with Christianity; good religion and good politics. It has been the mother and father of untold suffering. Now the Church has been given a rare opportunity to look left without fear of censure or excommunication. Looking left, even for this briefest of moments, has shown us that all was not well in the world, and what evil is happening now is nothing but a continuation of what saints like John Paul supported in the recent past.