by Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — For the young people who will attend World Youth Day 2019 in Panama, the life and martyrdom of Blessed Oscar Romero is a shining example of Christian faith in the midst of struggles, said several bishops from Panama.
The people of Central America “have a great affection” for the Salvadoran archbishop and remains a symbol of hope for “all peoples of Latin America,” Bishop Manuel Ochogavia Barahona of Colon, Panama, told Catholic News Service Aug. 3.
“I think that it would be an honor for us to have this theme of Blessed Oscar Romero [for World Youth Day] and that he may truly accompany us,” he said.
Blessed Romero was assassinated in 1980 while celebrating Mass in the chapel of a local hospital, one day after calling on the government to end its violation of human rights against the population. Pope Francis recognized his martyrdom; he was beatified May 23.
Along with Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa Mendieta of Panama and Cardinal Jose Lacunza Maestrojuan of David, Bishop Ochogavia traveled to Rome and attended Pope Francis’ weekly general audience after attending World Youth Day in Krakow.
Bishop Ochogavia told CNS that they were attending the initial organizational meetings with the Pontifical Council for the Laity and that the themes and patron saints of the event “will be developing in the coming months.”
While the Vatican asked the bishops to make suggestions, the final decision on whether Blessed Romero will become a patron of the 2019 celebration lies with Pope Francis.
After the Salvadoran archbishop’s beatification, the pope expressed his admiration for Blessed Romero and his “attention to the most poor and marginalized.”
“At the moment of his death, while he celebrated the holy sacrifice of love and reconciliation, he received the grace to identify himself fully with the one who gave his life for his sheep,” Pope Francis wrote May 23 in a letter to Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador.
Archbishop Ulloa told journalists Aug. 3 that Blessed Romero is a role model for pastors, a shepherd who was close to his people and who “gave his life for others.”
“I think the figure of [Blessed] Romero is always present as a model that should all follow as Christians, of being someone close to others, of being able to denounce [injustice] and announce [the Gospel],” he said.