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Murdered Salvadoran Archbishop a step closer to sainthood

5:47am BST - 01:11

Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, gunned down in 1980, is beatified in a ceremony attended by hundreds of thousands of people. Rough cut (no reporter narration).

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ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero was beatified on Saturday (May 24), the final step before sainthood, 35 years after he was gunned down at the altar by a right-wing death squad for denouncing the oppression of the poor by the military dictatorship. Roman Catholics from around the world mixed with former Marxist rebels from El Salvador's brutal civil war as over 250,000 people gathered in the capital to celebrate the country priest who confronted the U.S.-backed government. Cardinal Angelo Amato, sent by Pope Francis, officiated the ceremony that followed decades of debate over whether Romero had rejected Church doctrine by embracing radical, left-wing rebels. Romero's path to sainthood stalled under popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, but Pope Francis re-started the process in 2013 and declared him a martyr this year. The bloodied shirt he died in was paraded through the crowd, thousands of whom had camped out since Friday (May 24). Many hoped Romero's beatification would inspire peace in El Salvador, which has been plagued by gang violence since the war ended in 1992. Born in 1917 in a mountain town near Honduras, Romero apprenticed as a carpenter as a boy before entering the Church, where he rose through the ranks, appearing to be a quiet conservative. But soon after being appointed archbishop in 1977, he became a staunch critic of the military government after it began killing, kidnapping and arresting priests who had been organizing peasants and supporting workers' rights. His sermons, often broadcast on radio, riled right-wing extremists. But he ignored multiple death threats, remaining defiant up to his murder while giving mass in the chapel of a San Salvador hospital. Shortly after his death, civil war broke out between the government, which had financial backing from Washington, and leftist insurgents, who are now the ruling party. The conflict claimed around 75,000 lives.

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Murdered Salvadoran Archbishop a step closer to sainthood

5:47am BST - 01:11