"Unlike neighboring Guatemala, where the pope railed against evangelical denominations for stealing Catholic sheep, the pope did not mention Protestants in El Salvador.

Observers said the papal visit nonetheless added legitimacy to the archbishop's efforts to strengthen relationships between the [Roman Catholic] church and the ruling Salvadoran elite. "The pope made clear his intention to praise and bless this new relationship between [Roman Catholic] church and state," commented Hernandez. ""


From ............ National Catholic Reporter

February 23, 1996

page 5

SALVADORANS' LOW EXPECTATIONS MET BY POPE

By PAUL JEFFREY Special to the National Catholic Reporter

Pope John Paul II wrapped up his second Central American sojourn with a one-day visit to El Salvador Feb. 8.

Sporting a suntan from the previous day's activities in Nicaragua, the pontiff celebrated an outdoor Mass in an exclusive neighborhood. Prominent business leaders remained comfortably seated in a special section while poor Salvadoran Catholics stood in the sun for hours to get a glimpse of the pope.

Although he spoke mostly of religious themes, John Paul blamed both "unchecked Marxism and capitalism'' for having "damaged the social fabric and unleashing the horrors of hatred" in the Central American country.

El Salvador has never had a Marxist government but insurgents there were accused of Marxist inclinations. On the capitalist side, the past two Salvador administrations, prodded by the United States, have carried out economic "structural adjustments" that have exacerbated postwar poverty.

So far this year, the government of President Armando Calderon Sol has laid off 15,000 public employees, provoking widespread public protest, including a seizure of the cathedral just days before the papal visit.

During his 10-hour visit, John Paul mostly refrained from commenting on El Salvador's political and economic problems, even though the country's conservative-controlled episcopal conference recently complained that the country "cannot be in peace when extreme poverty, insecurity and unemployment cruelly impact so many people."

Although he called for postwar reconciliation, the pontiff made no specific reference to unfulfilled elements of the 1992 peace accords. According to Juan Carlos Hernandez, a base community leader in San Salvador, the pontiffs announced

Hernandez told NCR the pope's speeches were

John Paul also refrained from public statements about the deep divisions within the Salvadoran church, tensions exacerbated by his appointment last year of conservative Fernando Saenz Lacalle as archbishop of San Salvador.

Observers said the papal visit nonetheless added legitimacy to the archbishop's efforts to strengthen relationships between the church and the ruling Salvadoran elite.

commented Hernandez.

The pope's itinerary did not include the Central American University where six Jesuits and two of their helpers were murdered by Salvadoran militia in 1989, but he did stop to pray at the tomb of murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero, located in San Salvador's recently finished cathedral.

Several observers complained that the ceremony there was crafted so that John Paul wouldn't hear the reading of a letter requesting Romero's canonization. Vatican officials did receive the letter with the first installment of what sponsors hope will eventually be 1 million signatures and said they would convey it to Rome's "saint factory," the Congregation for Sainthood Causes.

Hernandez said when the none visited El Salvador 13 years ago,

This time around, he added, "our expectations were a lot lower."

Unlike neighboring Guatemala, where the pope railed against evangelical denominations for stealing Catholic sheep, the pope did not mention Protestants in El Salvador.

That's despite a Central American University survey last year that showed only 57 percent of Salvadorans profess to be [Roman] Catholics. Salvadoran [Roman] Catholic leaders have perhaps been more honest than their colleagues elsewhere in admitting their responsibility for diminishing flocks.

Gregorio Rosa Chavez, the auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, declared a week before the papal visit that

[picture caption] - Hundreds of young people petition Pope John Paul II for the canonization for San Salvador's assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero in San Salvador. The youths gathered outside the tomb of the religious leader while the pope prayed there.

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