Pat, a Primary Advisor from Liverpool Archdiocese, Margaret, a retired Primary Advisor from Shrewsbury (now working in Faith development and doing some writing for CAFOD’s schools team) and our own Bridget Fenwick from the schools team are in El Salvador to experience CAFOD’s work and Romero’s legacy in that country.
This is the second of Bridget’s blogs:
Day one – After a busy and interesting morning, concluding with lunch with the British Ambassador (!), we set off to the hospital where Archbishop Oscar Romero lived and was assassinated. This proved to be a salutary and emotional experience. We were fortunate that our colleague, Clare Dixon, had arranged for Jose to meet us there. Jose is a catechist in his home parish and also works for CAFOD’s partner, Tutela Legal, which, amongst its work, records and defends the human rights abuses of the civil war.
He was accompanied by his friend and fellow parishioner, Chito, both of whom had known Archbishop Romero, or ‘Monsenor’, as they fondly call him. Jose told us how Archbishop Romero gave him his First Communion and how his mother pushed him forward to shake the Archbishop’s hand! He added that it was the best day of his life meeting Romero. Chito told a story of how the Archbishop came to his parish and they had put on a huge spread for after the celebration. However, Romero refused to go into the room to eat as he wanted to stay with ‘his people’.
Romero’s simple bedroom
We went first to the room where Romero had lived – a simple bedroom with a small desk in the corner, where he worked and wrote and prepared his sermons, and a small bathroom, complete with his shaving gear! Previous to this, Monsenor had lived in a tiny room behind the altar in the Chapel. The Sisters were not happy that their Archbishop should live in such a place, and so gave him this room as a birthday present! It was hardly luxury…Indeed, it is an example of a man who, the higher he rose in the hierarchy of the Church, the more humble he became, showing how deeply he understood and lived the ideal of servant-leadership which he saw in Jesus. We also saw the vestments which he was wearing when he was gunned down.
We then walked up to the hospital chapel where Archbishop Romero was celebrating the Eucharist when he met his death. Jose and Chito sang us a song about Romero as prophet, and spoke to us in detail about the
day of the assassination. The day before, while celebrating Mass in the cathedral, Romero had appealed directly to the members of the military to stop the killing, telling them that they were killing their own brothers and sisters, and reminding them that they were not obliged to follow an order that contravened God’s law. Many believe that in saying this, Romero signed his own death warrant. As he lifted up the chalice of wine, soon to become the blood of Christ, shed for the world, a car drew up outside the chapel. From where he stood at the altar, Romero could see the glint of guns and must have realised that his hour had come. Shots rang out and Romero fell behind the altar, where he had been preparing to offer the sacrifice of the Mass, shedding his blood, laying down his life for his friends. This took place beneath the cross of the Master he had served so faithfully.
On this altar Monsenor Oscar A Romero offered his life to God for his people
Romero had said that if he was killed, he would rise again in the Salvadoran people. Although we have only been here for one day, we can see that this is indeed true. Like the grain of wheat dying and falling into the soil, the death of ‘St Romero of the Americas’ continues to yield a rich harvest. And today, we were privileged to stand on truly holy ground.