March 24, 2000
Vatican urged to canonize slain Salvadoran archbishop as martyr

                  VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The cleric overseeing the cause for sainthood for San
                  Salvador Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero marked the 20th anniversary of Romero's
                  slaying by urging Friday that he be canonized as a martyr.

                  Canonization of the archbishop -- an outspoken critic of human-rights abuses under
                  what was then El Salvador's far-right regime -- would be "a significant gesture not only
                  for El Salvador, but for all of Latin America and for the entire Church," Monsignor
                  Vincenzo Paglia told Vatican Radio.

                  A sniper shot Romero in the heart on March 24, 1980, as he raised the chalice over his
                  head to celebrate Mass in a San Salvador chapel.

                  A U.N.-sponsored investigation blamed the killing on El Salvador's far-right. The
                  execution made Romero a symbol of a 12-year civil war that cost 75,000 lives.

                  Hundreds of thousands have written letters urging his canonization, Paglia said.

                  The cause for canonization is now under study at the Vatican, having moved past the
                  evidence-gathering phase by locals in El Salvador.

                  Romero has been a difficult figure for the Vatican, in part because some see him as
                  coming close to the kind of extreme political activism held in disfavor under John Paul

                   Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.