Pope denounces priests, bishops who 'defamed' Salvadoran Archbishop Romero after his murder

Pope Francis has strongly denounced the Catholic priests and bishops who "defamed" Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero even after his murder in a campaign that delayed his beatification until earlier this year.

Francis spoke off-the-cuff Friday to a group of Salvadoran pilgrims who traveled to Rome to thank history's first Latin American pope for beatifying Romero, long a hero to the continent's poor and oppressed.

Francis told them that Romero suffered martyrdom not only during his March 24, 1980, murder as he celebrated Mass in a hospital chapel, but afterward.

He said: "I was a young priest then and I was a witness to this: He was defamed, calumnied and had dirt thrown on his name — his martyrdom continued even by his brothers in the priesthood and episcopate."