In these days leading up to Sunday’s canonization, there is a growing excitement among us and among the fellow pilgrims we are meeting. As others have mentioned, we have been encountering other pilgrims as we make our way around Rome. On Thursday morning, while the eight of us were visiting the Colosseum, we ran into a group of pilgrims from El Salvador that we had met the day before and exchanged a new round of hugs. It was like we were old friends already, familiar faces in this city that is new to all of us.
Friday morning we went to the church where Oscar Romero was first ordained a priest. We were there to pick up kits that the Archdiocese of El Salvador has put together for all the pilgrims, apparently close to 7000, here for the canonization of Monsignor Romero. There was a group of welcoming and organized Salvadorans there, unpacking boxes of blue bags and filling them with blue hats, scarves, flags, booklets, and prayer cards. We spent time speaking with a man who works for the Archdiocesan radio and he was passionate and focused about the significance of this moment. And he was excited and encouraged to hear that we are here from Canada. There is a sense among the Salvadoran pilgrims we have met that they appreciate knowing of us and the fact that their own beloved Monsignor has been an inspiration to a community as far away as Toronto! Perhaps it is confirmation of something they have long known and believed – that Romero’s life and death have something important to say to the wider world.
On Thursday evening we attended a musical recital hosted by the Salvadoran embassies to the Vatican and to Italy. Groups representing a variety of Latin American communities in Rome shared music, dance and song in a spirit of offering to and celebration of the life of Oscar Romero that has brought us all here. A musician from Uruguay, after recognizing that many younger Salvadorans were not familiar with Archbishop Romero’s life and legacy, began to compose contemporary songs using words from Romero’s homilies. On Wednesday he sang, “Que no haya resentimientos en la corazon,” – There are no resentments in the heart. He invited those in the audience who had been impacted by violence and war to stand and for the rest of us to stand and surround them with love and support as we sang those words together. Archbishop Romero spoke words of profound pastoral challenge and invitation to the people of El Salvador as they lived through violence and persecution, and those words continue to challenge and invite us today in the many layered ways they speak to us as a group of pilgrims.
The evening recital ended with Panamanian dancers and a Honduran youth dance group getting us all on our feet for a final dance. Our time here is one part party, one part prayer.
– Sonya Wu-Winter-