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

Harvest Fast Day: Romero continues to inspire young people this Harvest

Kathleen (back row, far left) in El Salvador.
Kathleen (back row, far left) in El Salvador.

Kathleen O’Brien is in our schools team and coordinates resources for secondary schools.

Last February, I was privileged to be in El Salvador when the announcement came that Pope Francis had declared San Salvador’s one-time Archbishop, Oscar Romero to be a martyr, meaning that a date could be set for his beatification. There was great joy expressed by everyone we met that day. One of the Jesuits at the university said to us, “The whole of Latin America has been waiting for this event for thirty-five years!”

Watch our Romero film

Schools in England and Wales are familiar with the name ‘Oscar Romero’. Sometimes when our team visits a school we hear that ‘Romero House’ is the name chosen for one of the school house teams. That resonates with us, as we named our London office building ‘Romero House’ after our former CAFOD partner. Many pupils have learned about Romero’s life in RE lessons during Year 6 of primary school or in the first two or three years of secondary school.

That’s why, in this special year when Romero officially became ‘Blessed Oscar Romero’, we wanted to use El Salvador as the focus for our Harvest materials for schools. The materials look at the stories of Diego (8) and Isabel (15) from San Salvador.

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Oscar Romero lives on in the people of El Salvador

Denise is Diocesan Manager in Brentwood. She visited El Salvador in 2004 for the 15th Anniversary of the Martyrs of El Salvador. To mark the beatification of Blessed Oscar Romero, she tells us how his legacy lives on in the people of El Salvador.

Denise from Brentwood
Denise, Diocesan Manager in Brentwood, visited El Salvador and was witnessed how Romero’s legacy lives on

When I first knew I would be visiting El Salvador I read a few books about the country – most recalling the conflict and the work of Romero and the Jesuit priests. I felt I was concentrating on the past and not finding out about the country now. It soon became clear that the conflict and Romero is still so entwined in daily life, that you couldn’t split the past from the present or the future.

Download prayers to celebrate the life of Blessed Oscar Romero

This is an excerpt from my diary, reflecting on a visit to where Romero was assassinated, the chapel of The Hospital of the Divine Providence

“We are welcomed into the small museum housed in the rooms Romero used when staying at the hospital. Shown around by a sister who had ministered to Romero after he was shot, it is sobering to meet people who so nearly lost their lives but for fate and to be part of history. Continue reading “Oscar Romero lives on in the people of El Salvador”

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””

Art and soul of Romero

Hugh Gibbons is a CAFOD volunteer from Bracknell in the Portsmouth diocese who has led several community art projects to spread the word about Blessed Oscar Romero’s life and legacy.

Hugh Gibbon in Bracknell
Hugh with one of his pieces of art in Bracknell

I think he’d smile. Art with its sleeves rolled up is how I like to think of my offbeat contribution to the tributes for Romero in an unplanned series of good-natured portraits seen by thousands of people – indoors and out. And there’s been a flow of good stories for the local press and beyond.

The starting point was a visit to Stonyhurst College in Lancashire four years ago. The Librarian Jan Graffius is also the conservator of Romero’s relics in the little museum in the Divina Providencia Hospital in San Salvador. Not bones, but telling items such as three pairs of socks, a manual typewriter, spare spectacles – and blood-stained vestments.

On Jan’s I spotted a small triptych of Romero’s life by an up-country artist. Something clicked. I’m not an artist. But painting on wood in blocks of bright Salvadoran colours seemed something I could have a go at – and many school and parish for that matter.

So I scaled up the familiar little CAFOD Memorial Cross as Romero 1.0 in our porch, to welcome all visitors.

Buy your own Romero cross

A cross for all weathers

Romero 2.0 quickly followed – but 2 metres high!  ‘Big Oscar’ was a present for St Francis of Assisi parish in South Ascot as a thank you for 50 years of CAFOD support. The cross was ‘ruggedized’ to withstand the weather in its setting on the outside of the church, so that all the passing public could enjoy and gain something from it. And there was room for Romero with trademark eyebrows and glasses.   Continue reading “Art and soul of Romero”

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”