It is fitting that Monseñor Romero and Pope Paul VI are canonized together. One of my favorite images of Romeo is when he met with Pope Paul VI and presented him with a photo of the recently martyred Jesuit priest Rutilio Grande.
Pope Paul VI encouraged Romero to continue his work. Despite negative comments from Salvadoran elites and most of the bishops and despite the cool, at times harsh, reception that Romero received in some departments of the Vatican Pope Paul received him warmly.
Romero, in his diary, recalled what he heard from the Pope:
“I understand your difficult work. It is a work that cannot be understood, in which you need to have a lot of patience and courage. I know that not all think as you do: in the situation of your country this unanimity of thought. Nevertheless, proceed with courage, with patience, with strength, with hope.”
Pope Paul VI, who wrote of the new vision of evangelization linked with liberation in his 1975 letter Evangelii Nuntiandi, shared Romero’s vision.
In a homily shortly after returning from Rome, Romero said:
When Paul VI talked about having to renew the church, and that this was the goal of the Second Vatican Council, he explained very well that renewal does not mean accommodating to the modern ways of the world, which at times are unchristian. Renewal means making the church consistent with the seed that was planted. A tree, however much it grows, remains consistent with its seed. What is important to understand is that God’s word is a seed, and it cannot be altered. We would like a teaching more accommodated to our interests. We’d like a preaching that isn’t so bothersome, that doesn’t cause conflicts.
But when Christ planted the seed, he had conflicts. That seed is the word of the Just One, of the Holy One, of the one who knows what he wanted when he created humanity and nature; and so it guides us, but it collides with sin. It clashes with those who don’t want the seed to grow.
Saints Monseñor Romero and Pope Paul VI, pray for the church, that it may be a force for the real liberation of God’s people – from all that keeps us from living as members of the Reign of God.