Looking At 21's Catholic Roots
**************************************************************Roberto Clemente's canonization campaign took a major leap forward today. Puerto Rican Archbishop Roberto Octavio Gonzalez Nieves responded to the campaign for Clemente's sainthood with a gracious letter of support and assigned Richard Rossi the task of investigating Clemente's Catholic ties.Rossi, director of "Baseball's Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories" a film focusing on Clemente's spiritual side, had already received several encouraging letters regarding his efforts to make Clemente the next saint, including a letter from Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The Puerto Rican Archbishop's response was an important step because he has jurisdiction in the Diocese where Clemente perished in a mission of mercy to earthquake victims in Nicaragua."Clemente was known to some as a Catholic, and to others as a Baptist," Rossi said. "The Archbishop asked me to document his Catholic ties so we can move forward." Rossi sent his response documenting his findings regarding Clemente's Catholic roots on the MVP right-fielder's 80th birthday, answering as follows:"Roberto Clemente was baptized in the Catholic Church, beginning his sacramental life. Father Alvin Gutierrez, who ministered to Clemente in Pittsburgh, told Inside the Vatican investigative writer William Doino Jr. that he was in contact with a parish priest in Puerto Rico who sent Father Gutierrez a copy of Roberto's baptismal certificate. Roberto was Catholic from the outset of his life to the end of his life. Roberto was married in San Fernando Roman Catholic Church on November 14, 1964 on the plaza in Carolina officiated by Father Salvador Planas in front of thousands of eyewitnesses. I can share with you photographs and film if you require this. His memorial service was also at San Fernando Roman Catholic Church at 3:30 p.m. shortly after his plane went down. The Memorial Mass was led by Archbishop Luis Aponte Martinez and witnessed by the Pittsburgh Pirates team in attendance. As you can see, there is strong and verifiable evidence Roberto Clemente was baptized, married, and memorialized in the Catholic Church.
As for the whether he was Baptist and not Catholic, here are the facts: His mother Luisa was an Evangelical Baptist. His father Melchor was a Catholic. Yes, Roberto was ecumenical and appreciated his mother's faith and Baptist roots as a part of his life and spiritual journey. His ecumenical love for his brothers and sisters in Christ in the Baptist church doesn't discount his worthiness of sainthood or his Catholicism, it is a positive and Christlike quality that Roberto could see God working in different churches. He was an intelligent man who took the good from his experiences in the Baptist Church of his mother and the Catholic Church of his father. He often said we must see others as our brothers and sisters. This in harmony with the Second Vatican Council which states members of other churches are our brethren. Roberto's heart for the world is a saintly characteristic, not a deterrent to the cause. As you know, the Bible says in Acts 2:17 "In the last days, I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh..." Though Roberto was Catholic, he had the eyes of Christ to see God in other churches such as the Baptists, and other cultures, and countries beyond his own.
Clemente was married in San Fernando Roman Catholic Church
Roberto Clemente's life exhibited faith and the martyrdom of a Christlike death, dying out of compassion to save others. He truly lived the words of our Lord and Saviour in Saint John 15:13 "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."
I prayerfully and respectfully thank you for openness to begin this cause so these matters can be looked into thoroughly.With highest respect and prayerful hope for this cause,
Due to the overwhelming worldwide interest in the Clemente canonization campaign and the film "Baseball's Last Hero," several news websites crashed due to the volume of hits. This blog is newly created to give up-to-date information on this story alone. Coverage of others stories will continue on other Catholic news sites. For additional coverage of the Clemente campaign/film, recent articles can be Googled and found in the following publications (Partial List): Catholic News Service, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Newsmax, Salt Lake Tribune, Religion News Service, Sporting News, Fox-News, Washington Times, Post Gazette, Tribune Review, Auburn Pub, Charisma News Service, Pittsburgh CBS KDKA local news, Seamheads, Latino LA, Backstage, Valley Star and more.
Poster for "Baseball's Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories"