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El Salvador’s first cardinal a friend of Blessed Oscar Romero

Auxiliary Bishop Jose Gregorio Rosa Chavez of San Salvador, who will be made a cardinal at a June 28, 2017 consistory. (Credit: Octisanduran via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).)

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – Pope Francis’s decision to elevate Bishop José Gregorio Rosa Chávez is unprecedented: not only is he the first Salvadoran cardinal, he is also the first auxiliary bishop to be given a red biretta.

The cardinal-elect, who will receive the honor at a June 28 consistory, is also well-known for his close collaboration with Blessed Oscar Romero, an Archbishop of San Salvador who was martyred in 1980.

Rosa, 74, has been auxiliary bishop of San Salvador since 1982.

The pope’s May 21 announcement of a consistory to create five new cardinals came as a surprise to many, though possibly none more than Rosa.

“I thought it was a joke,” he told Catholic News Agency of getting the phone call at 5 a.m. “I never thought that this could happen to me.”

Rosa also described the appointment as “a charge,” saying he prayed for peace after receiving the announcement: “It’s a grace that you have to know how to receive with humility,” he reflected, adding that the office of cardinal is “a service which demands of you a total disposition to martyrdom.”

He also said Mass at the tomb of Blessed Oscar Romero, who he said “shed his blood, like a true cardinal. He shed his blood for Christ, for the Church … this gave me a measure of tranquility.”

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