Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

To Be Made A Saint

A Mass to celebrate the canonisation of Oscar Romero, former Archbishop of San Salvador. Celebrant: the Bishop of Leeds, Rt Rev Marcus Stock; homily given by Rev Dr Patrick Smythe

A Mass to celebrate the canonisation of Oscar Romero, former Archbishop of San Salvador at Leeds Cathedral. Oscar Romero was assassinated in 1980 whilst celebrating Mass during a time of social and political conflict in El Salvador. He had denounced violence and the killings of community leaders, spoken out against poverty and given a voice to the voiceless. He advocated for social justice and working towards a peaceful solution to the nation's crisis. Oscar Romero will be canonised in Rome on 14th October. The Rev Dr Patrick Smythe, who was personally inspired by Oscar Romero to promote justice in the world, will explore why Romero is being made a saint and how he can inspire us today. The service will be led by the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Marcus Stock. The Choir of Leeds Cathedral Is conducted by Benjamin Saunders and accompanied by the organist David Pipe.

Producer: Miriam Williamson

38 minutes


Please note:

This script cannot exactly reflect the transmission, as it was prepared before the service was broadcast. It may include editorial notes prepared by the producer, and minor spelling and other errors that were corrected before the radio broadcast.

It may contain gaps to be filled in at the time so that prayers may reflect the needs of the world, and changes may also be made at the last minute for timing reasons, or to reflect current events.

Time now on BBC Radio 4 for Sunday Worship which comes live from Leeds Cathedral, with a Mass to mark the canonisation of Oscar Romero, former Archbishop of San Salvador. The homily is given by the Reverend Doctor Patrick Smythe. And it’s introduced by the celebrant, the Right Reverend Marcus Stock, Bishop of Leeds…

WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION at the Chair (top centre of the sanctuary)

Bishop Stock gives the words of welcome:

The Bishop:  Welcome to Leeds Cathedral, dedicated to St Anne, the Mother Church of the diocese of Leeds.

This morning, I will celebrate Mass with the Cathedral choirs and congregation gathered here.  At the same time, there will be thousands gathered at St Peter’s in Rome, where Pope Francis will canonise seven new saints: women and men, among whom are Pope Paul VI, and Oscar Romero, the former Archbishop of San Salvador, who was murdered while celebrating Mass in 1980.

Mass begins with the hymn, The kingdom of God is justice and joy.

GLORIA                 Missa Christus Rex
Hendrik Andriessen (1892-1981)

RESPONSORIAL PSALM sung by the Choir/Cantor           Psalm 127  r v.5

GOSPEL ACCLAMATION           John Duggan (born 1963)


HOMILY at the Lectern (south side of the sanctuary) preached by Fr Patrick Smythe.

"In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I beg you, I implore you, I order you, in the name of God, stop the repression".

These are the words of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador who will be Canonised today in Rome by Pope Francis. They concluded a sermon he preached in the Cathedral of the capital city of San Salvador on March 23rd 1980.

The words were directed at the security forces of the Government responsible for killing poor people of the country who were standing up for their human rights. The very next day, during a Mass at which he was presiding in the nearby chapel of the Divine Providence Hospital, Archbishop Romero was himself assassinated by an agent of the regime. Thousands came to his funeral at which the army fired into the crowd killing thirty of the mourners and injuring hundreds.

Oscar Romero had been a voice for the voiceless and had become an aggravation to those in power who sought to repress, by intimidation and violence, any dissent to the manner of their rule.

In his homeland, and around the world, Romero has long been an inspirational person to those who are concerned about the suffering of the poor, the oppressed and the marginalised, and who wish to remedy such situations. The United Nation - honouring him - has established March 24th, the day of his murder, to be the 'International Day for the Right to Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims'.

Romero's words and example stirred me into active campaigning for the liberation from gross injustice of another long-suffering people: those of East Timor, a country in SE Asia, far away from here - and from El Salvador.

His canonisation today is a formal acknowledgment of his impact worldwide, and an encouragement to follow his example - and to avail of his spiritual support.

Oscar Romero was not a firebrand; not aggressive in any way. In fact he had a gentle, quiet, sensitive character. But this very sensitivity engendered outrage in his heart when he came to know of the malevolent treatment of the weakest and most vulnerable people in his country. 

Romero was a devout Christian man, a conscientious and hardworking priest, a loyal and dutiful bishop. He was pious and prayerful.

Accordingly he was attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in his heart, and so was moved from deep within himself to respond to the cries of the poor. As the first Scripture reading in this Mass puts it: I prayed and understanding was given me.

In the Gospel Jesus tells us that the way into the fullness of life is to detach ourselves from the riches of this world. Then we will have the lasting 'treasure of heaven' in our hearts.  Oscar Romero was ready and willing to forego his personal comfort and security, and put his very life at risk, in order to promote justice and freedom for all his compatriots.

For example, he was known to visit the families of those murdered by the military - to see their bodies. He didn't believe in second hand information - and he wouldn't deny comfort to anyone who needed it.

By the time of his death Archbishop Romero had built up an enormous following among his compatriots. He did this largely through broadcasting his weekly sermons across El Salvador on the Church's radio station, YSAX. In these sermons he listed disappearances, tortures, murders, and much more.

Roberto Cuellar, a lawyer hired by the Archbishop to run a free legal assistance office in San Salvador, recalls the years they worked together: "Romero wanted weekly updates on the cases we were working on. This was so that he could decide personally which ones he could publicly denounce. He wanted us to ... verify the facts, and to help the victims. Romero wanted justice to be available for all, not only those who could afford it".

Archbishop Romero was not a political revolutionary - he spoke a spiritual message. He preached that:

 "The liberation called for by Christ and by His Church is not to be reduced to the dimension of a purely temporal project: to material well-being, or only to initiatives of a political or social, economic or cultural order ... The most profound social revolution is the serious, interior, reform of a person".

In 2007 Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina reportedly told a Salvadorean priest: "To me Romero is a saint and a martyr. If I were Pope I would have already canonised him."

Today that time has come and Cardinal Bergoglio - now Pope Francis - will invite us all to emulate in our own lives the gentle but courageous Archbishop of San Salvador, and to ask his spiritual support in our own efforts for human welfare in this world and beyond it.

SANCTUS                 Missa Christus Rex
Hendrik Andriessen (1892-1981)

AGNUS DEI                Missa Christus Rex
Hendrik Andriessen (1892-1981)

Hymn: We have a gospel to proclaim,

Edward J. Burns (born 1957)

The Bishop: Thank you for joining us at Leeds Cathedral for Mass to commemorate the Canonisation of Archbishop Oscar Romero, Pope Paul VI and five other Saints in Rome this Sunday.  May the holiness of their lives and their prayers deepen our faith in the love and mercy of God.



Two girls on a train

Two girls on a train

How a bystander's intervention helped stop a young woman from being trafficked.