Pope Francis is presented with an image of Roman Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero during a private audience granted to participants to the pilgrimage from El Salvador at the Vatican in 2015. File picture: L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP

Vatican City - Pope Francis has cleared the way for slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero to be made a saint, declaring that a churchman who stood up for the poorest of the poor in the face of right-wing oppression should be a model for Catholics today.

The Vatican announced on Wednesday during a meeting with the head of the Vatican's saint-making office, that Francis had approved a decree confirming a miracle attributed to Romero's intercession. Also approved was the miracle attributed to Pope Paul VI, paving the way for his canonization as well.

No date has been set for either ceremony, which Francis would be expected to celebrate.

Romero was gunned down by right-wing death squads on March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass in a hospital chapel. The country's military dictatorship had vehemently opposed his preaching against the repression of the poor by the army at the start of the country's 1980-1992 civil war.

Francis unblocked Romero's stalled sainthood case at the start of his pontificate and declared him a martyr in 2015.

Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, who was gunned down while giving Mass in a San Salvador church
Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, who was gunned down while giving Mass in a San Salvador church on March 24, 1980. AP Photo

The case had been held up for years by the Vatican, primarily due to opposition from conservative Latin American churchmen who feared Romero's perceived association with liberation theology would embolden the movement that holds that Jesus' teachings require followers to fight for social and economic justice.

It was also delayed over related questions about whether Romero was killed out of hatred for his faith or his politics. If killed for his politics, it was argued, he couldn't be declared a martyr of the faith.

Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo-Romero offers the host wafer during the communion rite to a member of the congregation during a church mass in San Salvador in 1980. File picture: Cotera/AP

In the end, Pope Francis decreed in 2015 that Romero was killed as a martyr out of hatred for the faith — or "in odium fidei."

He was beatified in San Salvador on May 24, 2015, before a quarter-million jubilant Salvadorans, and held up as model of peace and forgiveness for Francis' home continent.

Maria del Pilar Perdomo, 58, holds up a framed portrait of slain Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Arnulfo Romero, during a procession to mark the 35th anniversary of his assassination in San Salvador in March 2015. File picture: Salvador Melendez/AP

Details of the miracle that paved the way for his canonization weren't revealed, but rumors have circulated for more than a year that a possible miracle was being studied.

When Francis declared Romero a martyr, officials said the decree had confirmed the acceptance of a new understanding that martyrs can be killed, even by churchgoing Catholics, out of hatred for their Gospel-inspired work in favor of the poor and disenfranchised.

AP