Our newest saints: St Oscar Romero and St Pope Paul VI

Francis Stewart works in our theology team. In this blog he looks at the links between the two new saints whose lives have such prophetic meaning for CAFOD.

By canonising Oscar Romero and Pope Paul VI together, Pope Francis is surely pointing out to us the connections between two humble yet courageous men. So what links these two great advocates of “a Church of the poor and for the poor”?

“Patron saints” of CAFOD’s work

Both men have been inspirational for CAFOD’s mission. This is because of what the teachings of one and the life of the other show us about a true encounter with people who are poor.

Find out more about Romero’s life, with our timeline.

Continue reading “Our newest saints: St Oscar Romero and St Pope Paul VI”

Saint Romero: My inspiration

Blessed Oscar Romero is being officially recognised as a saint on 14 October 2018
Tania Dalton frequently travelled to El Salvador with CAFOD.

Tania Dalton was a member of CAFOD’s Latin America team for nearly 13 years. In this blog she explains how Archbishop Oscar Romero has inspired her to begin a new chapter in her life.

Two big things are happening in my life right now:

  1. I have started to train as a primary school teacher
  2. Blessed Oscar Romero is being officially recognised as a saint on 14 October

It might seem conceited to say the two things are related, but in my mind, they are.

Inspired by Oscar Romero

I first heard about Archbishop Oscar Romero when I started working in CAFOD in 1999. I am inspired daily by Romero’s unwavering option for the poor, although I was a small child when he was killed for his defence of basic human rights and social justice.

Read more about Oscar Romero’s life

Continue reading “Saint Romero: My inspiration”

Disappearance: Torture without end

Sunset over San Salvador, capital of El Salvador
Sunset over San Salvador, capital of El Salvador

On International Day of the Disappeared, CAFOD’s Clare Dixon shares the story of people who worked at the height of the conflict in El Salvador to make sure people killed by death squads did not just disappear without a trace. Sadly, some of the details of this story are distressing.

The first time I visited El Salvador in 1981 the country was plunged in a brutal civil war. Thousands of ordinary men and women were being targeted by the army and death squads, just for demanding their basic human rights, a decent wage, and freedom of speech. Nobody ventured out after dark for fear of being arrested or just snatched off the streets and I felt an overwhelming sense of fear and dread.

Archbishop Romero, the “voice of the voiceless” who had espoused and defended the cause of the poor and oppressed, had been shot dead as he said Mass in 1980. A year later I was visiting El Salvador to meet with members of his Archdiocese who, with the support of CAFOD, had set up a human rights office. Its task was to provide legal aid to help and comfort the countless victims of violence who had nowhere else to turn when their loved ones had “disappeared” after being captured by the death squads.

Please pray for those struggling in El Salvador

Continue reading “Disappearance: Torture without end”

Step into the Gap: “I feel Romero’s compassion alive today”

CAFOD Step into the Gap volunteer Ciara Hogan shares her experiences of arriving in El Salvador, meeting CAFOD’s partners and seeing inspiring, creative projects.

Our first few days in Central America have been absolutely incredible. In the short time we’ve been here we have already experienced so many different people and places, each giving us so much to think about and reflect on.

Find out more about Step into the Gap 

One of those experiences was our visit to La Palma, a town in the mountains of El Salvador bordering Honduras. This was our first visit to a family since we arrived.

Continue reading “Step into the Gap: “I feel Romero’s compassion alive today””

The power of hope – Oscar Romero’s legacy

The legacy of Oscar Romero, former Archbishop of San Salvador who was assassinated in 1980, continues to inspire people around the world. CAFOD chair, Bishop John Arnold, has written about how Romero has inspired him, and how a gift in a will can enable us all to leave our own legacy of hope.

I decided some years ago to leave a gift to CAFOD in my will. As someone who has long appreciated CAFOD’s work and is very aware of our Christian duty to stand in solidarity with people who are poor, I felt it was the right thing to do.

Order or download CAFOD’s free will-writing guide

Bringing hope to the people of El Salvador

On my trip to El Salvador with CAFOD last year, I met many people deeply moved by the life of Blessed Oscar Romero and his determination to speak out against injustice. When visiting the radio station at the Jesuit university in San Salvador, I was reminded that nearly 40 years ago, CAFOD funded Romero’s own radio station after it was blown up by the military.

Continue reading “The power of hope – Oscar Romero’s legacy”

Blessed Oscar Romero’s influence continues today

To commemorate 100 years since the birth of Blessed Oscar Romero, CAFOD PR manager Kemi Bamgbose spoke to several people who continue to be inspired by Romero’s  powerful legacy today.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Blessed Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador who was brutally assassinated in 1980.

Archbishop Romero was beatified in 2015 and today he is recognised across the world for his commitment to social justice – practically demonstrating the love of God by defending the rights of the poorest and most marginalised communities in El Salvador.

His life and legacy continues to inspire many people to be a voice for the voiceless. Meet those lives have been transformed by his work.

Rebecca Haile, Bangladesh Programme Officer, CAFOD

I first came across ‘A step along the way’ prayer when I was at school and then several years later when my Mum gave me a printed copy when I first considered moving into International Development after finishing University.

I even referenced this Romero-inspired prayer in my first CAFOD interview several years ago! The prayer really resonates with me and constantly reminds me why CAFOD’s work is so important and much needed.

As the poem sums up, we may not be able to solve every problem we face but there’s value in our contribution, no matter how small. And we might not see the fruits of our work in our lifetime but we’re building the necessary foundations for the future. This is a really humbling and beautiful sentiment.

Juan Garcia, Farmer, El Salvador

“Monseñor Romero spoke a lot for the poor. We went to his funeral in 1980. Some people came to tell our cooperative that the funeral would happen and took us there for free. I was there when the army started to fire on us. Monseñor Romero died for speaking the truth in favour of the poor. You felt he was a person who helped the poor. Everything he did was good. The president was doing a lot of bad things to us in the cooperatives, but Oscar Romero did things in favour of us. And for this, we love him.”

Find out more about the life of Blessed Oscar Romero

Bernadette Goddard, Seville, Spain

“I first came across Blessed Oscar Romero when I started volunteering with CAFOD almost 10 years ago. As part of my year with CAFOD step into the Gap I had the privilege of travelling to Nicaragua. There, I met the sisters, who were giving a voice to children, young people and women in poor and rural areas. Seeing this work in action reminded me of Romero’s compassion for the poor and his desire to be a voice for the voiceless.

After returning from Nicaragua a friend shared a profound Romero phrase which I now hold in my heart: “Each one of you has to be God’s microphone.” I have met many people in my life who have a voice which is not heard for whatever reason. As each of us are made in the image and likeness of God we have a responsibility to be a microphone of justice and peace for each other – just as Romero said.”

 Anthony, pupil

“I learnt about Archbishop Romero at schools and the values he lived by which inspired him to give his life to help the poor.  He was courageous because he needed to be brave to help other people. He also had hope because he had faith God even in a situation like the one he was in. Oscar Romero also had love because he loved the poor people enough to give his life for them.”

Take a look at our education resources on the life of Blessed Oscar Romero

Susy Brouard, Theology Programme Advisor, CAFOD

“I have seen the Romero film three times – the first being in my early 20s. The film had a profound impact on me. Romero is an inspiration for anyone and everyone. He was a traditional bookworm – the last person you would expect to get involved with challenging the government and the army. But following the murder of his good friend, Rutilio Grande and the increasing injustices he witnessed, he couldn’t help but act. Only God could have inspired him to put his life on the line in this way.

There are many things I admire about Romero but one of them was Romero regularly included the names of those who had been tortured and murdered in his homilies – such was his dedication. Romero was the voice of the oppressed. He inspired me to not only work for social justice but to work for CAFOD and to challenge the structures which oppress people and prevent human flourishing.”

Find out more about our Romero-inspired retreats happening this Autumn

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”

Lent 2015: Oscar Romero – CAFOD Servant Leader

Liam Finn is CAFOD’s Regional Media Officer. His personal Lent journal today focuses on Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was a CAFOD partner and remains a great example of a ‘Servant Leader’.

When the CAFOD Lent calendar was launched in February and my colleagues and I were working out which days we were going to write our journals on, there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to write about Oscar Romero.

Oscar Romero is one of CAFOD’s most famous and inspirational partners
Oscar Romero is one of CAFOD’s most famous and inspirational partners

Archbishop Romero epitomises what CAFOD is about: people giving of themselves to achieve One Just World in which every child, woman, and man can live in peace and free from poverty. And I’ve deliberately chosen to speak of Romero in the present tense, despite it being 35 years this month since his assassination. Romero said himself “If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people”. He also lives on in CAFOD supporters, partners, and anyone who strives to bring about that one just world.

Continue reading “Lent 2015: Oscar Romero – CAFOD Servant Leader”