Overdue Beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero

300,000 expected for beatification of Oscar Romero in San Salvador
22 May 2015 06:00 by Francis McDonagh

Some 300,000 people are expected to witness Saturday’s beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero, whose elevation to the altars has been pushed by Pope Francis.

Ceremonies were due to start on Friday evening with a torchlight procession through the streets of San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, and a Mass celebrated by the Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, chairman of the Pope’s “C9” Council of Cardinals. This was to be followed by a vigil until 5.00 a.m. on Saturday.

The beatification itself will take place during a Mass in Salvador del Mundo (Saviour of the World) Square starting at 10 a.m. local time (16.00 hours GMT), at which the Pope’s representative, Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, will read the official decree. You can watch the beatification livehere.

Romero, the late Archbishop of San Salvador, was a fearless defender of the poor. He was assassinated by a right-wing death squad while celebrating Mass in 1980 as his country began to descend into civil war.

At a press conference in San Salvador on Monday, church spokesman Mgr Rafael Urrutia said that among the 300,000 people expected to attend were seven cardinals, 90 bishops – including all the Salvadoran hierarchy – and more than 1,000 priests. Also expected are seven heads of state, including the Presidents of Ecuador and Panama. The bishops of England and Wales will be represented by John Rawsthorne, emeritus bishop of Hallam.

From San Salvador, Julian Filochowski, director of the Romero Trust, told The Tablet: “There is a great sense of excitement at what will be an unprecedented event in Salvadoran history, but worry too that the organisation in San Salvador may struggle to cope with a huge influx of pilgrims from the countryside and neighbouring countries.”

Mr Filochowski also referred to concern that local presentations of Romero by the Church and local media “portray a tepid, bland and watered-down version of Romero rather than the martyr for justice”. A particular target for criticism has been the slogan that appears on the official publicity for the beatification, “Romero, martyr for love”. However another official poster adds: “For the poor, for justice, for his people, for the Church, for Jesus Christ”.

But the current archbishop of San Salvador, Archbishop José Luis Escobar, insisted that the beatification “marks a path, establishes a route for living the faith. So when Archbishop Romero is beatified, he is beatified with his doctrine, with his teaching and he becomes a light, a torch to guide the path of the Church… It is important, not only because he is El Salvador’s first Blessed, but also because of Archbishop Romero’s greatness and his example, not just to follow his teaching theoretically but to put it into practice.”

Among initiatives being organised to commemorate the beatification are Romero “wallpaper” for computers and smart phones and a play, Romero – Path of Justice, which is to be performed in a local theatre and in the chapel of the Divine Providence Hospital, where Romero was murdered.

Relatives and people who knew Romero in his hometown of Ciudad Barrios and in his later posting to the eastern town of San Miguel have been interviewed in local media. Former shoeshine boys in San Miguel, who were beaten by their keepers and forced to sleep in the park, have told how Romero formed them into an association, with official identification, which helped to end the beatings. He later built a hostel and a school for them.

Watch the beatification live here.


There can be little doubt that the Beatification of San Salvadorian Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was killed at the altar by a death squad, while celebrating Mass in 1980, when his country was on the verge of civil war, proved popular with most Salvadorians.

His willingness to die in the cause of justice for the poor and marginalised was evident from one of his final utterances, two weeks before he died:

”  In an interview two weeks before his assassination, he said, “I have frequently been threatened with death … Martyrdom is a great gift from God that I do not believe I have earned. But if God accepts the sacrifice of my life then may my blood be the seed of liberty and a sign of the hope that will soon become a reality … A bishop will die, but the Church of God – the people – will never die.”

Such a dedication to the cause of justice is surely one of the great parameters of sainthood in the Church Universal, and as such, is recognised by Christians around the world as being worthy of universal recognition. The political overtones of Archbishop Romero’s ministry among the people of his country have too long militated against his recognition, today,  as one of the Church’s true martyrs up until this point in time.

However, with a former South American prelate, Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina, as the present Roman Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis, it seems right and good that he should be the Pope that authorises the Beatification of this outstanding Catholic Archbishop among the ranks of Martyrs of the Church. 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Pope Francis in Favour of Women’s Voices in The Catholic Church

Women deacons could solve Pope’s conundrum
22 May 2015 by Michael Phelan

St Olympias

Speaking to an international group of women and men religious last Saturday, Pope Francis said that the Church needed women’s voices, input, and experiences. He went on to say that although women could be appointed as heads of some offices of the Vatican curia, that would not be enough to “recover the role” that women should have in the Catholic Church. What was important was ensuring that women had a voice and are listened to because the Church needs their specific richer, stronger, and intuitive contributions. He said, as he has before, that the Church needed the “feminine genius”. Nevertheless, so far there has been little evidence of any such real progress for women as advocates or officials in the Church.

Might I suggest that suitable Religious and lay women who are given vocal and official roles in the Church be ordained like men to the permanent diaconate – with its three-fold ministry of the Sanctuary, the Word, and charity. For those conservative male clerics who might be worried about ordaining women to the permanent diaconate, this would not necessarily be a “slippery slope to women priests” because the contemporary restored ordained diaconate is permanent.

There were many women deacons or deaconesses during the first millennium, particularly in the Eastern part of the Catholic Church. Women deacons are mentioned in Scripture or were canonised like St Olympias (pictured), who I included in the litany of the saints in my own diaconal ordination. The ancient diaconate of women had all the elements of an authentic sacrament – imposition of hands by the bishop with the invocation of the Holy Spirit, investiture with the diaconal stole and so on. The only difference in the ancient roles of women and men deacons was that only women could prepare women catechumens for joining the Church, as only women could anoint and immerse women at baptism, for which catechumens had to strip totally.

Michael Phelan is a retired Permanent Deacon in the diocese of Northampton and a trustee of The Tablet


The author of this ‘Tablet’ article, The Reverend Michael Phelan, is a Permanent Deacon in the English Roman Catholic Church, who endorses Pope Francis’ call for a greater role for the voice and ministry of women in the world-wide Roman Catholic Church.

Deacon Michael says this:

“For those conservative male clerics who might be worried about ordaining women to the permanent diaconate, this would not necessarily be a “slippery slope to women priests” because the contemporary restored ordained diaconate is permanent.”

Acknowledging that the Permanent Diaconate has it’s very own provenance in the history of the Church, Deacon Michael reminds the Church that Women Deacons are not only in evidence in the Scriptures, but were also part of the ongoing life of the Church in its early historical life.

Although Deacon Michael assures his ‘conservative male clerical’ friends in the Roman Catholic Church that the ordination of Women Deacon need not be the first step of a ‘slippery slope to women priests’, it would at least give the Roman Catholic Church an opportunity to experience the ministry of Women in a more authoritative role than is at present possible.

The current situation is that, in parishes where male priests are thin on the ground, Nuns – and, in some parishes, other women – are already being given the responsibility of administering the sacrament of Holy Communion to parishioners, within the context of ‘extended Communion’ liturgies, where a full Eucharistic Rite cannot be celebrated because of the absence of a (male) priest to preside at the Mass. This practice already begs the question of whether, or not, a woman might conceivably be authorised by the Church to actually preside at the celebration of the Mass.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Former Irish President Back Equal Marriage in Referendum

Go Ireland. Go! Go! Go!


  1. I loved the video of Mary McAleese, former Irish President, affirming the need to vote YES in the Irish Referendum on Equal Marriage. Her insistence on voting to allow S/S/ Civil Marriage is based on intimate knowledge of having a Gay son. She points to the fact that the referendum is not asking for the blessing of the Church on such relationships, although she, as a Catholic, believes that the Church needs to repent of institutional homophobia. And she is surely right.

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A Father’s Reflection on his daughter’s Same-Sex Relationship

As I see it…. View from a Trustee of ‘Inclusive Church’
My daughter’s wedding

I love my children; I am as proud of them as any father could be.  My eldest daughter is studying medicine in Birmingham University and her relationship with her girlfriend has reached the semi-joking-conversations-about-getting-married stage.  As the child of two Priests she was curious about what the Church could do on her wedding day.

To my shame I could not offer a church wedding.  If I was to follow the guidelines of the Church of England I could not even offer her a blessing.  (If she bought her first car – I could bless that; if she wanted to go fox hunting – I could bless the hounds; if she designed nuclear missiles – I could bless them; but (according the Church) her life-giving and life-affirming relationship to the marvellous young woman she loves should go unblessed!)

I would not deserve to be called her ‘father’ if I would not break the rules to bless her love in my Church.  So of course I offered her a blessing.  I defy any bishop to look me in the eye and say I should not.
But then I got thinking, if I wouldn’t deserve to be called my daughter’s ‘father’ if I wouldn’t bless her, what does that mean for my parishioners, some of whom also call me ‘father’ (admittedly usually with irony – we are not very ‘high’ church)?

I share the ‘cure of souls’ with my bishops, but the bishops have spectacularly failed to support LGBT Christians.  As a Vicar I am called to show similar support, love and compassion for my parishioners as I do for my biological children.  We must ask the question: ‘Is there a pastoral, moral and Godly imperative to bless loving, faithful and committed gay and lesbian couples?’

I think the answer is obvious.
But we may already be too late.

Returning to my daughter, feeling brave and heroic, willing to disobey the rules of the church in order to do the right thing, I suggested that she got married in a registry office then came to church for a blessing.
With a sad and slightly pitying smile my daughter said “no thanks dad, on one of the most important days of our lives, I don’t think we want anything to remind us that the church doesn’t fully accept us.”
We are losing a generation.  Not just the LGBT members of the generation, but all those of good conscience who see the Church’s problem with sexuality as pure prejudice.
The truth is that the Church needs to bless my daughter’s relationship more than my daughter and her girlfriend need the Church’s blessing.

If the Church wants a role as the nation’s moral compass it needs to act like a moral compass and “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before our God.” (Micah 6.8)
Trevor Donnelly
The Church of the Ascension, Blackheath

Trustee of Inclusive Church


Father Trevor Donnelly, Church of England parish priest, and Trustee of ‘Inclusive Church‘, offers this stunning reflection on the reaction of our young LGBTI people to the continuing reluctance of the Church to bless their faithful, monogamous, Same-Sex partnerships.

Trevor’s daughter, who just wants to get on with the business of legalising her relationship with her chosen partner – a mark of stability in a world of increasing reluctance on the part of our young to form permanent, faithful relationships with one other person – now realises that the Church in which she was nurtured (and in which her parents serve as ordained clergy) is still not convinced that God would bless her and her beloved, in their intent to remain faithful to one another for their lifetime.

I guess that, until one or more bishops in the Church find their children in a similar situation, and have to refuse the blessing of the church on their relationship, there will remain this obstacle to affirmation by the Church of stable same-sex relationships, that could be a sign to heterosexual couples of the possibility of permanence in marriage.

I commend Trevor Donnelly and his clergy wife for bringing this situation to the attention of people in the Church of England who are against the Church’s involvement in blessing monogamous same-sex relationships – especially when the moral equivalent is to accept the fact that gay people – like straight people – might be more inclined to co-habit without the blessing of the Church.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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South American Primate Affirms Schismatic S.C. Diocese

“We are with you,” says Bishop Zavala; Meetings May 20 PDF Print E-mail
Written by SCDiosAdministrator
Tuesday, 19 May 2015 15:45
Bishops Lawrence and ZavalaBishop Tito Zavala, Presiding Bishop of South America, was with us at Diocesan Council today, May 19, 2015.

“We are here to know you, to be with you, to say with our presence that we, in the Global South, are with you and want to do the best we can for you so you can continue being part of the Anglican Communion,” said Bishop Zavala.

Don’t miss the chance to meet with him tomorrow, May 20, 2015. He’ll be at St. Matthias, Summerton, from 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. and at the Cathedral, Charleston, from 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.  Read more about and register for the meetings below.

The Most Rev. Hector “Tito” Zavala, Bishop of Chile and Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Province of South America, comprising the countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, who serves as the Diocese of South Carolina’s liaison to the Global South Primates Steering Committee, will be holding two meetings with the Bishop, clergy and parishioners in the Diocese of South Carolina May 20, 2015. One will be held at St. Matthias in Summerton from 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. and the other will be at the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, Charleston, from 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

As one of 40 primates of the 80 million member worldwide Anglican Communion, Bishop Zavala will be in South Carolina specifically to encourage and support fellow Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, and the clergy and lay people of the Diocese of South Carolina.

“We’re grateful for the strong support we’ve received from Anglicans around the world and are especially thankful for this time we’ll have with Bishop Zavala,” said the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, XIV Bishop of South Carolina.  “The Global South Primates have assured us of their prayers and their stand with us.”
Though the visits are open, attendees are asked to pre-register,


I wonder whether – among “the Anglicans around the world” envisaged by Bishop Zavala – will include anyone from our ACANZP) who might present themselves at the upcoming talks between this South American Bishop of the Gafcon provenance and the bishop of the schismatic former TEC diocese of South Carolina, convened to shore up relationships between Gafcon and the S.C. diocese and its Bishop, Mark Lawrence.

Here is the agenda, published on the web-site of Bishop Mark Lawrence:

“As one of 40 primates of the 80 million member worldwide Anglican Communion, Bishop Zavala will be in South Carolina specifically to encourage and support fellow Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, and the clergy and lay people of the Diocese of South Carolina.

After all, at the recent meeting of a Gafcon sub-group in Australia recently, there were no less than 40 current members of our Church (ACANZP) – including at least one bishop – to show solidarity with Gafcon’s separatist ambition to wrest the leadership of the Anglican Communion from its traditional moorings (Lambeth, ACC Primates, the ABC).

Whatever the agenda of Bishop Zavala – in accentuating his personal support for schism in the Communion – one hopes that this will never be the intention of members of our own Church, here in Aotearoa/ New Zealand and Polynesia.

However, for the schismatic Diocese of Southern Carolina and its Bishop to claim relationship to the Anglican Communion through the membership of a foreign Gafcon Province (South America) of the Communion – which sodality has already distanced itself from the rest of us by the assertion of its very own ‘Jerusalem Statement’ (in preference to that of the agreed ‘Lambeth Quadrilateral’) – would seem to challenge further the koinonia fellowship of the world-wide Anglican Communion. 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Church of Scotland’s Historic Vote for Partnered Same-Sex Clergy

Church of Scotland plan for gay ministers offers possible ‘template’ for Anglicans

Church of England liberals hail Scottish ‘opt-out’ idea as possible breakthrough for divisions over homosexuality

General Assembly of The Church of Scotland

General Assembly of The Church of Scotland Photo: Andrew O’Brien

Under plans agreed by the General Assembly, which is meeting in Edinburgh, congregations will be able to invite people in civil partnerships to become their minister without formally changing the Church of Scotland’s traditional teaching on sexuality and marriage.

Instead, those congregations will be able to “opt out” of that aspect of the Church’s teaching.

The outgoing Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Very Rev John Chalmers

The Assembly will discuss whether a similar approach could be applied for same-sex marriage as civil partnerships later this week.

South of the border, the Church of England already allows clerics to form civil partnerships as long as they claim to be celibate. But the Church of Scotland’s approach does not require celibacy.

The Very Rev David Arnott, who coordinates the General Assembly’s business, said that although the Presbyterian structure of the Church of Scotland is different from that of Anglican churches, he hoped the plan could offer a “template” for the Church of England to consider.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme: “We are not going to change people’s minds, we have to come to a way of living together with our differences and living with our diversity and I hope that we’re able to do that.”

The Church of England has begun a process of “facilitated conversations” on the issue of sexuality following a call by the Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Rev Justin Welby to find a model of “mutual flourishing” for both sides rather than a vague compromise.

The Rev Sally Hitchiner

The Rev Sally Hitchiner, an Anglican priest and founder of “Diverse Church”, a group for young gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians, said the Church of England should “look carefully” at the Scottish arrangements.

“It sounds very similar to the Church of England’s policy on remarriage of divorcees and I think that works very well and actually I think that protects conservatives,” she said.

“In the conservative wing of the Church of England people genuinely are concerned that in 10 or 20 years they won’t be able to hold those views.

“If we can find a model like the Church of Scotland I think it could protect conservatives within the church while still allowing those of us who want to marry people of the same sex and indeed be married ourselves we should do so.”

Rev Andrew Foreshew-Cain (right) and Stephen Foreshew-Cain married last year

Canon Rosie Harper a prominent liberal cleric added: “This is a very interesting thing which at least makes what they doing overt rather than smoke and mirrors like it is in England.”

The Rev Andrew Foreshew-Cain, one of the first Church of England priests to enter a same-sex marriage, tweeted: “I am deeply glad that the Church of Scotland has followed where the Spirit of God is leading.”


“South of the border, the Church of England already allows clerics to form civil partnerships as long as they claim to be celibate. But the Church of Scotland’s approach does not require celibacy.”

This statement from the above article in The Telegraph proclaims the not-so-subtle difference between the current situation in the Church of England, and that now embraced by the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland. The point at issue here is not the fact that clergy may be participants in Same-Sex legal relationships, but that, in the Church of England, at present, such clergy are expected to remain celibate, i.e. ‘non-sexual’.

The Church of Scotland maintains no such sexual taboo, which calls into question the place of the Church of England in clergy bedrooms.

However, it appears that the Church of Scotland is allowing parishes to opt-out of accepting a clergy-person on the basis of their partnered same-sex status. This allows a conscientious objection in a particular situation where a parish is united in opposition to clerical same-sex partnerships.

At this stage in the arguments about same-sex relationships among the clergy, at least the Church of Scotland is being honest about what same-sex partnerships may involve in the way of personal intimacy. In other words, it is not legislating for celibate clergy – an argument that still obtains in the Church of England for civilly-partnered clergy!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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++Rowan Preaches Ascension-tide Sermon at The Abbey

The Bishops of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and of Hertford were consecrated at Westminster Abbey on Ascension Day. Rowan Williams preached the sermon.



Thanks to ‘Thinking Anglicans’ web-site for this delightful Ascension Day Sermon by former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, on the occasion of the Episcopal Ordination of 2 new bishops in the Church of England.

Addressing the episcopal candidates, he reminded them that they – and all Christians – are called to be Good News, in our representation of the Christ who calls us to minister in His Name. However, being human, we are only conduits of the Good News – who is Jesus Christ himself. 

Rowan’s reflection that even bishops can sometimes be Bad News, rather than Good News, in the way we interpret what the Gospel means in the different circumstances we meet along the road, reminded me – and no doubt all of his listeners in the Abbey on this occasion – that he recognises that some of his own ministry has sometimes been hampered by the Bad News of mistakes made. However, with confession of our weaknesses, and the determination to try to ‘do better’ – acknowledging our total dependence on the Holy Spirit to lead us in the right way – we may rely on God to bring us back into line with the Gospel.

This was a very heartening address, which no doubt the new bishops will take seriously to heart as they launch out into the deep waters of leadership in the Church of England. May God richly bless them in their future ministry.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch New Zealand 

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