March 21, 1999

Martyred Salvadoran closer to beatification

                  SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (Reuters) -- Martyred Salvadoran
                  archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, whose 1980 assassination came to
                  symbolize death squad terror during El Salvador's civil war, is moving closer
                  to beatification, a step on the way to sainthood, church officials said on

                  The Roman Catholic archbishop of San Salvador, Fernando Saenz Lacalle,
                  told reporters the proposal "is currently in the hands of the congregation (in
                  Rome) for the causes of sainthood."

                  Saenz said Romero's sponsor in Rome, Monsignor Vincenzo Pala, was
                  "very influential" within the Vatican.

                  Romero, who broke church silence on the war by denouncing right-wing
                  death squads murdering suspected supporters of Marxist rebels, was gunned
                  down after giving Mass on March 24, 1980.

                  He was killed at the start of the war in this tiny Central American country
                  that ended in 1992 after 75,000 people died. His story was told in the
                  Hollywood movie "Romero" starring the late Raul Julia in the title role.

                  Guerrillas of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) signed
                  a peace accord with the government and now form El Salvador's leading
                  opposition party.