Oscar Romero: Saint for the 21st century?

Romero mural

'May God have mercy on the assassins.' Even the final words he spoke as he lay dying, on the altar of a small chapel in San Salvador 34 years ago, were of forgiveness and peace. The election of Pope Francis may have revived his cause for sainthood.

March 24 marked the 34th anniversary of the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador - reputedly the first Archbishop to be slain at the altar since Saint Thomas Becket in 1170. 

- By Caitlyn Schmid

He was not always a supporter of liberation theology, but his time as Archbishop of San Salvador gave him a reputation for caring deeply about all people. Standing up against poverty, social injustice, torture, and assassinations of Salvadorans by their government, Archbishop Romero protected the poor civilians during what would become the Salvadoran Civil War (lasting from 1979 until 1992).

During his time speaking out against the violence in his country, Romero gained attention around the world. He pleaded to U.S. President Jimmy Carter to stop funding the Salvadoran government which was using the funds for military action against civilians. He criticized the attacks and threats on the members of the Church who helped the poor civilians—which caused some unrest with Church leaders who felt betrayed, accusing him of being 'politicised' and of seeking popularity.

The threats by the government and betrayals by some Church leaders did not stop him. Just moments before he was assassinated during Mass, he finished his final sermon. His message was clear:

'I would like to make a special appeal to the men of the army, and specifically to the ranks of the National Guard, the police and the military. Brothers, you come from our own people. You are killing your own brother peasants when any human order to kill must be subordinate to the law of God which says, "Thou shalt not kill." No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. It is high time you recovered your consciences and obeyed your consciences rather than a sinful order. ... In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression.'

Romero's words ring true today as the world is still in conflict. The political and military upheavals in Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere affect every corner of the globe. Let us all work preserve human rights, protect all life, and stop the repression around us.

Read full article: On the 34th anniversary of Oscar Romero's assassination (US Catholic)

RELATED COVERAGE:

'The last shall be the first' - address by Fr Fr Martin Maier SJ, to an ecumenical service on 22 March, at St Martin in the Fields, London (Jesuits in Britain)

El Salvador struggles to come to terms with violent past (National Catholic Reporter)

Steps to sainthood for Romero-linked Jesuit and Fulton Sheen (The Tablet)

Oscar Romero's Sainthood Cause to Move Forward (America magazine)

Francis 'unblocks' Romero beatification, official says (National Catholic Reporter)

Romero Scholarship (Boston College)

LISTEN:

Profile of a modern martyr (Vatican Radio)

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