“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!”
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.
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”
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
Fidel and Julia are farmers in Puentecitos, El Salvador. They are part of the CAFOD Connect2 programme which enables parishes to develop a relationship of solidarity with a community in a country where CAFOD works. In 2013 they visited Connect2:El Salvador parishes in England and Wales. Here they share how people in Puentecitos are preparing for the beatification of Mons. Romero on 23 May.
Our family and our community Puentecitos are happy and joyous at the news that our bishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero Galdámez is soon to be beatified by the Pope and the Church. Our families here in Puentecitos and in our parish are coming together in prayer. Every day we say this beautiful prayer:
Oh, Jesus, eternal shepherd, you made Oscar Romero, Servant of God, a living example of faith and charity and you granted him the grace to die at the foot of the altar in a supreme act of love for you.
Grant us, if it is your will, the grace of beatification, help us to follow his example of love for your church, your word and the Eucharist, and may we love you in the poor and needy. We ask this through the intercession of Our Lady, Queen of Peace.
Grant me please the favour I ask you, through the intercession of our Servant of God.
Father Augusto Zampini Davies is a RC priest, Moral Theologian and theological advisor to CAFOD. In the second of a series of blogs, Father Augusto explains how caring for creation is at the heart of the Easter message.
The environmental question brings together two central elements of Church teaching: promoting human development and caring for creation. This may sound overwhelming; some may feel it is too broad, or that it is exclusively related to scientists and experts. And including these concerns into our already busy and moving activities of the Easter season can be exasperating. Yet as Christians we have important reasons to consider the environmental question.
First, many of our brothers and sisters across the world experience the disastrous effects of climate change on a daily basis. For example in Nicaragua, crops are failing due to the extreme drought.
Lázaro Gutierrez is a teacher in the community of Santa Ana in the dry corridor of Nicaragua. Lázaro has seen the struggles which the families of his students have faced over the last few years due to the changing climate. With the support of our partner Caritas Jinotega, he has been working with the children to learn how to care for the environment and live sustainably.
Lázaro has a dream for the school. With our partner Caritas Jinotega he has been working to create a school garden, with fruit trees and vegetable plots, so the children can learn about nutrition and growing food and share what they learn with their families. He looks forward to the day when the trees they are planting now grow tall and throw shade where the children can sit and play at break times.
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.
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.
In early February, Clare Dixon, Ben White and Kathleen O’Brien travelled to San Salvador. Here’s a glimpse of their visit to Romero’s tomb on the day it was announced that the Vatican had declared this ex-CAFOD partner a martyr.
Around midday, we drive down to the Cathedral, which lies on the Avenida Monseñor Oscar Romero. Street names matter in San Salvador. At the moment there is a fierce argument raging between the current Mayor, Norman Quijano, who wishes to change the name of the road ‘San Antonio Abad’ to ‘Robert D’Abuisson’ after the man who ordered Romero’s death and founded the ARENA political party. We drive along this road and see graffiti saying “Ni calles ni caminos con nombres de asesinos” (Neither streets nor roads with names of assassins).
About the author: In early February, Clare Dixon, Ben White and Kathleen O’Brien travelled to San Salvador. Here’s a glimpse of their visit to Romero’s tomb on the day it was announced that the Vatican had declared this ex-CAFOD partner a martyr.