Pope Francis on Sunday praised two of the towering figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church as prophets who shunned wealth and looked out for the poor as he canonized the modernizing Pope Paul VI and martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero.
Francis declared the two men saints at a Mass in St. Peter’s Square before some 70,000 faithful, a handful of presidents and 5,000 Salvadoran pilgrims who had traveled to Rome. Tens of thousands more Salvadorans stayed up all night at home to watch it on giant TV screens outside the San Salvador cathedral where Romero’s remains are entombed.
In a sign of the strong influence Paul and Romero had on history’s first Latin American pope, Francis wore the blood-stained rope belt that Romero wore when he was gunned down in 1980 and also used Paul’s staff, chalice and pallium vestment.
Paul presided over the modernizing yet polarizing church reforms of the 1960s, while Romero was murdered by El Salvador’s right-wing death squads for his fearless defense of the poor.
In his homily, Francis called Paul a “prophet of a church turned outwards” to care for the faraway poor. He said Romero gave up his security and life to “be close to the poor and his people.”
And he warned that those who don’t follow their example to leave behind everything, including their wealth, risk never truly finding God.
“Wealth is dangerous and – says Jesus – even makes one’s salvation difficult,” Francis said.
“The love of money is the root of all evils,” he said. “We see this where money is at the center, there is no room for God or for man.”