Pedal Against Poverty 2015

Jon Stricklin-Coutinho, Manager for Westminster Diocese, tells us why you should Pedal Against Poverty.

Pedal Against Poverty for CAFOD
Pedal Against Poverty annual bike ride

For nearly a decade CAFOD supporters from Westminster, Southwark and Brentwood have come together in the Lee Valley to Pedal Against Poverty. On Sunday 7 June almost 200 cyclists will be taking over the tow paths for a morning, just as they do every summer. Incredibly, in this ninth year of the event, our combined fundraising total over the years should reach £100,000!

Sign up to Pedal Against Poverty on Sunday 7 June 2015

So what can attendees expect on the day? As CAFOD’s Manager for Westminster Diocese, my day starts at Ponders End Lock – the starting point of our more challenging 19 mile route – at 10:15am. Riders can also choose the more family-friendly ten mile distance, with these riders congregating at Cheshunt. There’s a real party atmosphere as everyone picks up their ride number, with our volunteers registering the most spontaneous of our riders and giving out last-minute CAFOD vests and t-shirts. My responsibility is the safety briefing (we are cycling along a tow path after all!) and checking that everyone has a helmet. Then there’s the obligatory group photo before the shout is given and the cyclists are off! Continue reading “Pedal Against Poverty 2015”

Oscar Romero: An inspiration who spoke out for the poor

Tony Sheen, Regional Manager for CAFOD, visited El Salvador on a Romero Trust Pilgrimage. Here he shares why Archbishop Oscar Romero inspires him every day.

I am delighted that the Church has beatified Oscar Romero. He is an inspirational Christian Martyr of my life time and an authentic voice of our Church having a real concern for the poor.

He was a true witness to Jesus’s teaching for us to speak out for justice in the beatitudes, when he said in Matthew 5:6. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…and when people speak all types of criticisms of you on my account”

Download prayers to celebrate the beatification of Blessed Oscar Romero

Romero spoke out about the injustices and killings in El Salvador during his time as Archbishop from 1977 to 1980. In doing so, Romero systematic undermined the rich and powerful and faced death threats to stop him speaking out.

Continue reading “Oscar Romero: An inspiration who spoke out for the poor”

Oscar Romero: “Aspire not to have more but to be more”

Matthew Sanderson works for CAFOD and is the Executive Assistant to the Director. In 2013 he visited Romero’s tomb in El Salvador. He will commence teacher training (history for secondary school children) in the autumn.

Matthew Sanderson on a recent trip visiting CAFOD projects in El Salvador
Matthew on a recent visit to El Salvador

I love history. Learning about people and events in the past fascinates me – What happened? Why does it happen? What can I learn from the past for my own life?

It doesn’t matter if the moment happened years or centuries ago. It’s fascinating how key figures from the past lived in cultures and experienced life in settings that I could not imagine; and yet they resonate so much with me.

This was definitely the case when I first learnt about Oscar Romero as a teenager. He may have died a decade before I was born in a country thousands of miles way but his story challenges me then and today.

Find prayers to celebrate the beatification of Blessed Oscar Romero

Romero’s Daily Reminder to Me

When I visited El Salvador in November 2013 I paid my respects at Romero’s tomb. Here I remembered the quote that I pass every day at the entrance to CAFOD: “Aspire not to have more but to be more”.

Continue reading “Oscar Romero: “Aspire not to have more but to be more””

Oscar Romero: a man of God

By Monsignor Ricardo Urioste, Archbishop Romero’s Vicar General and close friend

Monsignor Urioste in the church where Romero was murdered
Monsignor Urioste in the church where Romero was murdered

One of my first memories of Archbishop Oscar Romero was when I accompanied him to Rome in 1977. I can never sleep on a plane, so when we arrived at around eight o’clock in the morning, I was thinking about sleeping for a while. Then somebody knocked at my door. I opened, and it was Bishop Romero. He said, “Do you want to go for a stroll?” I said, “Yes, we should. Let’s go!”

And so we went directly to St Peter’s Basilica. He entered the basilica, went to the altar of the confession and he knelt down. I knelt down with him. After something like five minutes, I stood up. I saw him in such deep prayer that I said to myself: “I have to follow this man because he is following God.”

The spirit of Christ

I was fortunate to work with Romero for another three years after this. He was a man of faith, a man of God, a man of prayer. There is a quotation in St Paul’s Letter to the Romans 8:9 that says: “Whoever does not have the spirit of Christ does not belong to me.” And I asked myself, what was this spirit of Christ? And I find three characteristics of Christ essential.

The first was Christ’s sense of praying – looking for God, his Father. Because even if Christ is God, he knows the Father is another person, different from him, so he talks to him every day. And the Gospel tells us how he got up early in the morning and went to the mountain to pray or passed the whole night praying.

Find prayers inspired by Romero

The second characteristic of Jesus is his preaching of the Kingdom of God, based on love for everybody, even for those who don’t like him and make difficulty for him.

The third one is his closeness to the poor. He was close to the poor; to the blind, to the lepers, to the people who needed him. Continue reading “Oscar Romero: a man of God”

Oscar Romero: Clare Dixon's reflections on his beatification

Brothers, you are killing your fellow countrymen. No soldier has to obey an order to kill. In the name of God and in the name of the suffering people I implore you, I beg you, I order you, stop the repression!”

Clare and Ben at the tomb
Clare and Ben from CAFOD at Oscar Romero’s tomb

On 23 March 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero called on the army in El Salvador to disobey their government and lay down their weapons. He must have suspected that by doing so he was signing his own death warrant.

About the author: Clare Dixon is Head of CAFOD’s Latin America Department and a trustee of the Romero Trust. She reflects on Archbishop Oscar Romero’s beatification today.

The next evening, Romero was celebrating a memorial Mass in San Salvador. The church doors were open and he probably noticed the car drawing up outside. An armed man climbed out, took aim and fired directly at his heart. Romero died instantly, becoming the third bishop in history to be killed in his Church, after Stanislaus of Poland and Thomas Becket.

Today’s ceremony for Romero’s beatification – declaring him “Blessed” in the eyes of the Catholic Church – will see crowds of up to half a million people gather in San Salvador, alongside at least nine Presidents and Church leaders from around the world. This recognition of Romero as a towering figure in Latin America, martyred “in odium fidei” – out of hatred for the faith – is a clear vindication of one of the great figures of the 20th Century, the moral equivalent of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi.

Read our answers to your questions about Oscar Romero

Voice of the voiceless

In his three years at the head of the Church in El Salvador, where the military-dominated regime was propped up by the United States to combat a supposed communist threat, Archbishop Romero became the voice of the voiceless. He defended the poorer sectors of society against the violence of paramilitary death squads. His human rights office made daily rounds of the rubbish dumps in San Salvador searching for the bodies of people who’d been murdered, and they kept detailed records of the massacres carried out all around the country Continue reading “Oscar Romero: Clare Dixon's reflections on his beatification”

Oscar Romero: Clare Dixon’s reflections on his beatification

Brothers, you are killing your fellow countrymen. No soldier has to obey an order to kill. In the name of God and in the name of the suffering people I implore you, I beg you, I order you, stop the repression!”

Clare and Ben at the tomb
Clare and Ben from CAFOD at Oscar Romero’s tomb

On 23 March 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero called on the army in El Salvador to disobey their government and lay down their weapons. He must have suspected that by doing so he was signing his own death warrant.

About the author: Clare Dixon is Head of CAFOD’s Latin America Department and a trustee of the Romero Trust. She reflects on Archbishop Oscar Romero’s beatification today.

The next evening, Romero was celebrating a memorial Mass in San Salvador. The church doors were open and he probably noticed the car drawing up outside. An armed man climbed out, took aim and fired directly at his heart. Romero died instantly, becoming the third bishop in history to be killed in his Church, after Stanislaus of Poland and Thomas Becket.

Today’s ceremony for Romero’s beatification – declaring him “Blessed” in the eyes of the Catholic Church – will see crowds of up to half a million people gather in San Salvador, alongside at least nine Presidents and Church leaders from around the world. This recognition of Romero as a towering figure in Latin America, martyred “in odium fidei” – out of hatred for the faith – is a clear vindication of one of the great figures of the 20th Century, the moral equivalent of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi.

Read our answers to your questions about Oscar Romero

Voice of the voiceless

In his three years at the head of the Church in El Salvador, where the military-dominated regime was propped up by the United States to combat a supposed communist threat, Archbishop Romero became the voice of the voiceless. He defended the poorer sectors of society against the violence of paramilitary death squads. His human rights office made daily rounds of the rubbish dumps in San Salvador searching for the bodies of people who’d been murdered, and they kept detailed records of the massacres carried out all around the country Continue reading “Oscar Romero: Clare Dixon’s reflections on his beatification”

Oscar Romero: A preacher, shepherd and martyr

Gustavo Gutierrez is a theologian and a friend of CAFOD. He founded the Bartolomé de las Casas Institute in Peru, which is a CAFOD partner. In 2005 he gave our annual Pope Paul VI Lecture entitled ‘Remembering Romero in his XXV anniversary year’. Here, 10 years later, Gustavo shares his reflections on who Romero was and what he stood for.

Gustavo Gutierrez
Gustavo Gutierrez meeting Latin American Caritas organisations 2014. Credit: Tania Dalton/CAFOD

On 23 May, Mons. Oscar Romero will be recognised as a faithful witness (this is the meaning of the word ‘martyr’) to the life and message of Jesus of Nazareth.

This recognition will have two principal moments: the beatification when he will be declared ‘Blessed’, that is to say ‘happy’, a happiness born of the will to live out the Gospel; and the canonisation, full acceptance of his sainthood, and his definitive presentation as an example for Christians today to follow.

Find prayers and reflections to celebrate the beatification of Oscar Romero

The process of beatification and canonization of the Archbishop of San Salvador has not been easy.  The people of El Salvador and Latin America in general recognised his sainthood and service very early on; the Bishop and poet Pedro Casaldáliga was quick to proclaim him Saint Romero of the Americas, but those who felt this was not prudent resisted and delayed; they saw him as an uncomfortable person, or they did not commune with the meaning of his preaching. Continue reading “Oscar Romero: A preacher, shepherd and martyr”

Oscar Romero: The voice of the voiceless

Erasmo Valiente works with our partner Jesuit Development Service in El Salvador giving advice to farmers on how to keep crops healthy. In 2013 he visited Connect2 El Salvador parishes in England and was overwhelmed to discover that so many people in the UK have been inspired by the example of Archbishop Romero. His community in El Salvador is eagerly awaiting the beatification of Oscar Romero on 23 May when buses will take people from nearly every parish in the country to San Salvador and celebrations will be broadcast on television.

Find out more about Connect2:El Salvador

Erasmo at work in El Salvador
Erasmo training women who have started a small business making and selling coconut sweets

In El Salvador we refer to our martyr Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero Galdámez as the voice of the voiceless.  We call him this because always his primary concern was to speak out for the most excluded members of society, denouncing social injustice and military repression.  His dedication to the poorest took the form of a pastoral conversion, and a spiritual commitment to lay down his life for the resurrection of our people.

His response to the death threats he received was, “If God accepts my life as sacrifice, my blood will be a seed of freedom”.  His preaching was always full of humility and peace, and constant communication with God, which gave him the strength and wisdom to speak the truth freely and with dignity in defence of human life.

Find out more Archbishop Oscar Romero

Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero Galdámez knew that death was coming, but he chose not to escape the country; he stayed with his people, even after death.  “As pastor, I am obliged by divine order to give my life for those I love, that is all Salvadorans, even those who will assassinate me.  If they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadoran People”. Continue reading “Oscar Romero: The voice of the voiceless”

How Oscar Romero is relevant in parish life today

 Father Rob Esdaile is the Parish Priest of Our Lady of Lourdes in Surrey. He visited El Salvador in 1999 and shares his reflections on what Blessed Oscar Romero can teach us today.

Father Rob's reflections about Romero
Father Rob visited Oscar Romero’s El Salvador in 1999

I had the privilege of going to El Salvador early in 1999 in the company of Father John Medcalf, a fellow diocesan priest (who had himself worked in both El Salvador and Nicaragua). John had been invited to observe the presidential elections and thought it would do me good to go along.

Even 19 years after the murder of El Monseñor and 7 years after the end of El Salvador’s Civil War, the wounds caused by the violence he denounced lay just below the surface.  My visit was punctuated by encounters with the bereaved, with witnesses to atrocity, and with places stained still with memories of blood.

But I also visited the hospital chapel where Romero died saying Mass and the little bungalow next door where he lived in utter simplicity.  And I prayed at his tomb in the Cathedral of San Salvador, where it became apparent that already the people understood that he was their saint – San Romero.

Find prayers and reflections to give thanks for Blessed Oscar Romero’s life

As I reflect on the story of the Archbishop 35 years after his Martyrdom in my comfortable, wealthy, beautiful, non-violent suburban London parish, three things strike me.

Continue reading “How Oscar Romero is relevant in parish life today”

Oscar Romero: A man of hope

Kate Eastmond is currently on the CAFOD Step into the Gap programme. She is based with Just Youth in Salford and recently visited CAFOD partners in Nicaragua. Since returning she has been to a local school to talk to children about Oscar Romero.

Kate in Nicaragua
Kate in Nicaragua

As 23 May approaches with the beatification of Oscar Romero, I can’t help but reflect on one of my favourite quotes by him: “If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadorian people.” This quote stays with me as I know that this is indeed true.

Find our Archbishop Oscar Romero resources

Back in late January of this year, I visited Nicaragua to meet CAFOD partners working there and what struck me is the fact that this remarkable man has had an impact on so many in the whole of Central America and across the world. He lived his life through words and deeds and dedicated everything to the cause of the poor and worked tirelessly to make sure that their voices were heard.

Read Kate’s blog from Nicaragua 

Spreading the good news

To mark this upcoming celebration, I went into my local chaplaincy school to spread the good news about Archbishop Oscar Romero. The children were asked to design their own Romero Crosses to celebrate Romero’s life. Continue reading “Oscar Romero: A man of hope”