Archbishop José H. Gomez is celebrating a special Mass in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday honoring Óscar Arnulfo Romero — the beloved Salvadoran archbishop who would have turned 100 Monday.
Romero died a martyr while celebrating Mass in 1980, assassinated at 62 by a death squad during his country's brutal civil war. Born Aug. 15, 1917, Romero long faced resistance from conservative forces in Central America and at the Vatican, as some argued that his leftist politics guided his fight for the poor. But in February 2015, Pope Francis declared Romero a martyr, and a month later, he was beatified, a key step toward becoming a Catholic saint.
Sunday's Mass, which will be in Spanish, began at 12:30 p.m. at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
After Mass, the public can view three artifacts tied to Romero — the microphone he often used to deliver messages to parishioners at San Salvador's Metropolitan Cathedral, a blood-stained cloth recovered from the day he was killed and a photograph of him, which he autographed for a woman who worked with him over the years.
Los Angeles resident Maria Hilda González, who was born in El Salvador and now works as an anchor on El Sembrador, a Catholic TV station, helped arrange to have the relics available for Sunday's Mass.
She described viewing the microphone that Romero used as a powerful experience.
"It's a gift from God," she said in Spanish, adding that viewing the artifacts reminded her of the responsibility of her faith. "We must live in peace, be united and defend our faith."
To González, the beloved archbishop from her homeland represents the true church.
"He was a pastor who defended the poor," she said. "He defended the most humble."