A 20th Century Martyr
The life of Oscar Romero has always inspired me as a Christian. This is what Wikipedia writes about him. Oscar Romero was bishop of the Catholic Church in El Salvador. On 23 February 1977, he was appointed Archbishop of El Salvador. His appointment was met with surprise, dismay, and even incredulity. While this appointment was welcomed by the government, many priests were disappointed, especially those openly aligning with Marxism. The Marxist priests feared that his conservative reputation would negatively affect liberation theology’s commitment to the poor. On 12 March 1977, Rutilio Grande, a progressive Jesuit priest and personal friend of Romero who had been creating self-reliance groups among the poor campesinos, was assassinated. His death had a profound impact on Romero, who later stated, “When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought, ‘If they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path'”.Romero urged Arturo Armando Molina’s government to investigate, but they ignored his request. Furthermore, the censored press remained silent.
In response to Fr. Rutilio’s murder, Romero revealed a radicalism that had not been evident earlier. Traditionally, the church had been complicit in the aims of the state and military to privilege the wealthy and powerful while the majority of the population remained in abject poverty. He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture. Romero was shot on 24 March 1980, while celebrating Mass at a small chapel located in a hospital called “La Divina Providencia”, one day after a sermon where he had called on Salvadoran soldiers, as Christians, to obey God’s higher order and to stop carrying out the government’s repression and violations of basic human rights. According to an audio-recording of the Mass, he was shot while elevating the chalice at the end of the Eucharistic rite.
After his assassination a cause for beatification and canonization into sainthood was opened for Romero, and Pope John Paul II bestowed upon him the title of Servant of God. The canonization process continues. He is considered by some the unofficial patron saint of the Americas and El Salvador and is often referred to as “San Romero” by Catholics in El Salvador. Outside of Catholicism, Romero is honored by other religious denominations of Christendom, including the Church of England through the Calendar in Common Worship. He is one of the ten 20th century martyrs who are depicted in statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey in London, a testament to his wide respect even beyond the Catholic Church. In 2008, he was chosen as one of the 15 Champions of World Democracy by the Europe-based magazine A Different View.
This coming Tuesday (21/1) we will se the film “Romero” followed by coffee and a discussion. You are most welcome.