Pope to canonize 20th Century icons Oscar Romero, Paul VI


On Sunday, Sandoval and about 3,000 others, mainly Salvadoran immigrants, filled the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles for a Mass in Spanish celebrating Romero's elevation to sainthood by Pope Francis.

A Latin American icon, Archbishop Romero vocally opposed military oppression of El Salvador's right-wing government and was gunned down during Mass in a hospital chapel in March 1980.

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of the head of the Archdiocese of Washington DC Cardinal Donald Wuerl Friday over his role in handling sexual abuse allegations in the church. "He is a light for our people, an inspiration for all".

Francis was deeply influenced by Paul, who was the pope of his 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".

Nearly 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.

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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.

"He is my guide, and from what I have read about his life, I want to follow in his steps", said Oscar Orellana, a 15-year-old who participated in the San Salvador procession wearing a white tunic like the one Romero used to wear.

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. 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. Other soldiers are also mentioned as perpetrators of the murder.

He is most famous, however, for reaffirming the Church's ban on artificial contraception despite the fact that his own birth control commission, set up to advise the Vatican, voted overwhelming to lift the prohibition.

The pontiff was also to use a chalice and pastoral staff belonging to Paul VI in a canonization being seen as a reminder of Francis's call for "a poor church for the poor".