Cardinal-designate Gregorio Rosa Chavez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, El Salvador, pictured in a 2015 photo, is one of five new cardinals Pope Francis will create at a June 28 consistory. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (CNS) -- Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez dedicated his appointment as El Salvador's first Catholic cardinal to his longtime friend and mentor, Blessed Oscar Romero, a slain archbishop who has come to symbolize the small Central American country's fight for justice.
Cardinal-designate Rosa Chavez said he was surprised by a 5 a.m. call May 21 with news of announcement from the Vatican. He said at first thought it was a joke. He expressed his "profound gratitude" to God and Pope Francis, who named him and archbishops from Mali, Spain, Sweden and Laos as the next cardinals.
"It's a gift from God," Cardinal-designate Rosa Chavez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, said in remarks to the media in El Salvador.
The decision, unique because San Salvador's archbishop is not a cardinal, comes as the church in Salvador has pushed for sainthood for Blessed Romero, who was shot to death in 1980 at the start of the country's 12-year civil war as he celebrated Mass in a hospital chapel.
"I dedicate this appointment to Archbishop Romero,'' said Cardinal-designate Rosa Chavez. "I believe that he would have been called for this, but he will have to receive it in heaven due to his martyrdom."