Archbishop Oscar Romero is to be named a saint, the Vatican has announced.

Almost 40 years after he was assassinated, Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero is to be named a saint, the Vatican has announced.

Romero, a strong advocate for the poor, was gunned down by a right-wing death squad in 1980 at the start of the country’s civil war. He was shot on the evening of March 24, 1980 in San Salvador’s Chapel of Divine Providence after delivering a sermon.

“Those who surrender to the service of the poor through the love of Christ, will live like the grains of wheat that dies,” he had told those who were gathered. “It only apparently dies. If it were not to die, it would remain a solitary grain. The harvest comes because of the grain that dies.”

Romero’s murder was one of the most shocking in the long conflict between a series of US-backed governments and leftist rebels in which thousands were killed by right-wing and military death squads.

The Vatican official who spearheaded Romero’s sainthood cause, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, said he hoped the two would be declared saints together in October, saying a joint canonization would give Catholics a “burst” of energy and example of the need to live one’s life for others.

“I’m in a hurry because there’s an urgent need to change the world,” Paglia told The Associated Press.