SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — Archbishop Oscar Romero will be beatified on May 23 in his native El Salvador, moving the Roman Catholic martyr a step closer to sainthood.
Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia announced the date at a press conference Wednesday with Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren.
El Salvador's Culture Ministry announced that a statue of Romero located near where the beatification ceremony is scheduled to take place had been vandalized.
The right hand of Romero's statue had been broken off; the ministry said the statue will be restored.
A human rights campaigner, Romero had spoken out against repression by the army at the beginning of El Salvador's 1980-1992 civil war between the government and leftist rebels.
His assassination on March 24, 1980, presaged a conflict that killed nearly 75,000 people.
On Wednesday, the church announced it had begun beatification proceedings for Jesuit priest Rutilio Grande, who was killed, apparently by security forces, in 1977.
Jesuit priest Jose Maria Tojeira said Grande "is the first on a long list of priests killed in El Salvador."
Grande was 49 when he was shot to death along with two other people while on his way to deliver communion to a sick person on March 12, 1977.
The shooting has been attributed to El Salvador's National Guard. However, no charges were brought.
Grande, known as "Father Tilo," worked in the poorest parts of the country, organizing base communities that were viewed as a threat by local landowners.
Thirteen priests were killed in El Salvador between 1977 and 1989, and three American nuns were killed. The killings were believed to have been carried out by security forces and death squads.