Monday, March 24, 2008

Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez

Caminante reminds me, and all of us, that today is the feast of Blessed Óscar Romero, Archbishop and Martyr of El Salvador. I love the poster of him that she found and shares in her post. Thanks, Caminante!

She notes:
Twenty-eight years ago San Romero de las Américas was assassinated while celebrating a requiem mass in the small chapel at La Divina Providencia, San Salvador.
From the biography at the Westminster Abbey website:
Romero was impressed, though not always uncritical, of the new Catholicism that was affirmed with such confidence in Vatican II. In 1970 he became auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, and there he busied himself with administration. Many found him a conservative in views and by temperament. In 1974 he became bishop of a rural diocese, Santiago de Maria. Three years later, in February 1977, Oscar Romero became archbishop of San Salvador.

In that month a crowd of protesters were attacked by soldiers in the town square of the capital. Then, on 12 March 1977, a radical priest, Rutilio Grande, was murdered in Aguilares. Romero had known him. Now he observed that there was no official enquiry. He recognized that power lay in the hands of violent men, and that they murdered with impunity. The wealthy sanctioned the violence that maintained them. Death squads committed murder in the cities while soldiers killed as they wished in the countryside. When a new government which represented a coalition of powerful interests was elected it was seen to be by fraud. There was talk of revolution.

More and more Romero committed himself to the poor and the persecuted, and he became the catalyst for radical moral prophecy in the church and outside it. Meanwhile, his church began to document the abuse of human rights, and to establish the truth in a country governed by lies, where men and women simply disappeared without account. The press attacked him vehemently. Romero, it was said, allied the church with revolutionaries. This he repudiated: the church was not a political movement. But when a succession of priests were murdered Romero found in their deaths ‘testimony of a church incarnated in the problems of its people.’

In May 1979 he visited the Pope in Rome and presented him with seven dossiers filled with reports and documents describing the injustices of El Salvador. But his friends sensed his isolation in the church, while the threats and dangers against him mounted outside it. On 24 March 1980 he was suddenly shot dead while celebrating mass in the chapel of the hospital where he lived.

“...En nombre de Dios, pues, y en nombre de este sufrido pueblo cuyos lamentos suben hasta el cielo cada día más tumultuosos, les suplico, les ruego, les ordeno en nombre de Dios: ¡Cese la represión...!” (Últimas palabras de la última predicación dominical de Monseñor Romero, dirigidas a los soldados ordinarios en el día antes de su martirio.)

"I want to make a special appeal to soldiers, national guardsmen and policemen: each of you is one of us. The peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters. When you hear a man telling you to kill, remember God's words, 'thou shalt not kill.' No soldier is obliged to obey a law contrary to the law of God. In the name of God, in the name of our tormented people, I beseech you, I implore you; in the name of God I command you to stop the repression."

(Last words of the final Sunday sermon of Msrg. Romero, directed to the ordinary soldiers the day before his martyrdom.) [source, with photo of his tomb]

I had heard of Msgr. Romero but he "became real" for me when one of my professors and I went to see the film made of his life, starring Raul Julia as Romero. Since then I have read snatches of his sermons. He was a good man who, upon awakening to the agony of the people of El Salvador committed to his care, became a great man. As an honest man and a prophet, he was a threat to the wicked and powerful. His spirit lives on in the continued struggle for justice among the people of the Americas. Though his beatification process has far to go at the Vatican, in the hearts of many he is already recognized as a saint. He is certainly one that I honor. I will light a candle in front of his icon this evening.

"Before an order to kill that a man may give, the law of God must prevail that says: Thou shalt not kill! No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God."

I must tell you, as a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection. If I am killed, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people."

God of justice and compassion, you accepted the sacrifice of the life of Óscar Romero: May his blood be the seed of liberty and a sign of hope that the people, blessed with such a faithful bishop, may continue in the struggle for justice and, in the power of Christ's resurrection, never die. Amen.
--the BB


FranIAm said...

Whenever I find myself misty-eyed over JPII (it does happen every now and then, not too often) all I have to do is think of Oscar Romero.

This man is saint already, who needs the church to deem it so?

FranIAm said...

"I don't believe in death without resurrection. They can kill me, but they cannot kill the voice of justice. If they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadoran people."-Archbishop Oscar Romero

I had put this in my other comment about the 4000 dead; at that early hour I did not realize it was his feast day.

Senor ten piedad.

Kirstin said...

I had always thought it was an Easter mass. Telling.

Malcolm+ said...

At every mass, we proclaim Jesus's sacrificial death and glorious resurrection.

You weren't really mistaken, Kirstin.

Paul said...

Quite so, Malcolm. I think it was a requiem, actually, and since this was post-Vatican II a requiem would have definitely been an Easter rite.

The Paschal mystery lies at the heart of every sacrament.

Jane R said...

Thank you!