VATICAN CITY — The Vatican official spearheading the case to make slain Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador a saint said last week that the process is moving forward under Pope Francis, the first Latin American pontiff, after years of delay under previous popes.

Separately, an Italian religious affairs magazine reported that a panel of Vatican-appointed doctors had moved Pope John Paul II a step closer to possible sainthood by signing off on a second miracle attributed to his intercession.

Pope Francis already has shown that he is keen to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors by approving candidates for possible sainthood: In his first such decision March 28, Francis cleared dozens of martyrs from the Spanish civil war to be beatified, the key milestone toward being canonized.

Francis’ election as the first Latin American pope has given hope to many that Romero would be declared a martyr for the faith and beatified.

“Pope Francisco always had great admiration and total conviction that Romero was a martyr, that he was a saint,” said Msgr. Gregorio Rosa Chavez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador. “There is an overwhelming majority of bishops who are in favor of (Romero’s) canonization.”

Romero was gunned down in 1980 while celebrating Mass after stridently defending El Salvador’s poor and denouncing the government’s violence. His killing was one of the triggers that set off a civil war that left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing over the next 12 years.

The Italian prelate spearheading Romero’s case, Msgr. Vincenzo Paglia, said the process had been “unblocked,” the ANSA news agency and Panorama news magazine reported.

Paglia, who heads the Vatican office for families and met with Francis recently, was speaking on the sidelines of an event marking the anniversary of the death of another prelate who is also being considered for possible sainthood.

“Today ... the beatification cause of Monsignor Romero has been unblocked; tomorrow I can resume saying that these martyrs help us to live,” Paglia was quoted as saying.

Romero’s beatification cause languished under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI over the Vatican’s opposition to liberation theology, the belief that Christ’s teachings justify fights against social injustices.

Both John Paul and Benedict however spoke of Romero as a martyr; such a designation by the Vatican would mean he can be beatified without the Vatican confirming a miracle attributed to his intercession.