The Diocesan Shrine of St Oscar Romero at St George’s Cathedral, Southwark, has been elevated to the status of a National Shrine for England and Wales.
Commenting on the elevation to a National Shrine, Archbishop of Southwark John Wilson said: “We are very grateful to the Bishops of England and Wales for their support in enabling our Diocesan Shrine to now become a National Shrine for the benefit of people across our Dioceses.”
He continues: “St Oscar Romero calls us to faithful discipleship of the Lord Jesus and to the full proclamation of the Gospel. We are a people of the Beatitudes who must announce and live the Beatitudes. When Christ taught us to love and to serve, he really did mean us to put this into practice, especially towards those in most need. Love of Christ and love of neighbour mean that defending human life and dignity, and working for justice and peace, are integral to our witness. In this, we look to St Oscar’s inspiring example and ask his heavenly intercession.”
St Oscar Romero was the Archbishop of San Salvador in El Salvador from February 1977 until his assassination and martyrdom on 24 March 1980. He was an outspoken advocate of the Gospel and the teaching of the Catholic Church in defence of justice and peace, human rights and the protection of the poor. He was canonised by Pope Francis on 14 October 2018.
The Romero Shrine in St George’s Cathedral was implicitly recognised as a Diocesan Shrine in 2013, and this was made explicit through the promulgation of Statutes in 2019. Since then, St Oscar Romero has been beatified and canonised and there is a growing appreciation of Romero in the UK, including through the work of the Romero Trust and the Romero Award (for schools), and also ecumenically.
The National Shrine of St Oscar Romero is situated in the Romero Chapel, off the South Aisle within St George’s Cathedral, Southwark. Conceived by the British architect, Jonathan Louth, the Shrine is located between the older chapels of St Joseph and St Patrick. The centrepiece of the Shrine is the three-dimensional Romero Cross, (approx. 4.3 x 3.2 x 0.3 metres) designed and painted by the renowned Salvadoran artist, Fernando Llort.
The Romero Cross contains a reliquary holding a precious fragment of the blood-stained Alb that was part of Archbishop Romero’s martyrdom clothing as he celebrated Mass on 24 March 1980. This is the heart of the Shrine. Displayed alongside is a zucchetto, one of St Oscar Romero’s episcopal skullcaps. These were donated to the Archdiocese, through the good offices of the Archbishop Romero Trust and CAFOD, for permanent display and veneration by visitors to the Cathedral and pilgrims from near and far.
The Cross is overlooked by a bust of Archbishop Romero by the artist, Lado Goudjabidze. The Shrine is erected to the Greater Glory of God and to foster devotion to St Oscar Romero and, in a related way, to the martyrs of El Salvador. It is established for the spiritual benefit of the People of God in the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
The purpose of the Shrine is:
To encourage and enable pilgrims and visitors to seek the intercession of St Oscar Romero and find inspiration in his example of fidelity to Christ and his Church. To promote the Church’s prophetic evangelising mission to proclaim the Gospel, acknowledging the risks this might entail in the pursuit of human dignity, justice, reconciliation and peace.
To encourage pilgrims and visitors, inspired by the martyrdom of St Oscar Romero, to strive to become more authentic missionary disciples, strengthened in their resolve to bear witness to the Lord Jesus in the midst of the world. To propose the model and example of St Oscar Romero, for imitation in the Church, as a bishop who was completely faithful to the person and teaching of Christ and his Church, and who embraced, and lived with holiness, a preferential option for the poor in his ministry and in his daily life.
To assist pilgrims to find affirmation and consolation from St Oscar Romero’s immersion in the ‘Word of God’ and the ‘World of the Poor’, in his devotion to the Eucharist and to Our Blessed Lady, as they try to live out a prayerful spirituality together with courageous and loving service to their neighbour in need.
To provide a focal point for special devotions, liturgies and Eucharistic celebrations which uphold the God-given dignity and rights of every person, especially the poor and marginalised, both locally and globally, in faithfulness to Christ.
To offer an inspiring setting for visits by pilgrims and visitors, both individuals and groups, from parishes and schools across England and Wales, together with those involved in mission, evangelisation, justice, peace, and the promotion of Catholic Social Teaching.
To strengthen and enhance the relationship between a prayerful and orthodox Catholic faith, and witness and action for social justice, in order that the love of God and effective love of neighbour are held together in discipleship.
To foster good relationships and coordinate liturgies with other shrines and holy places that embrace and honour St Oscar Romero and the Christian martyrs of modern times.