Just ten days after Oscar Romero became Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, Fr Rutilio Grande SJ, a close friend who was master of ceremonies at his episcopal ordination, was assassinated.
- Review by The Tablet
A hail of bullets fired by a death squad killed Fr Grande, his sacristan, and his altar server as they drove to celebrate Mass in Grande's home village of El Paisnal, El Salvador.
Pope Francis seems set not only to beatify Romero; he has indicated that Grande, a prototypical Evangelii Gaudium 'missionary disciple,' might well follow. No surprise therefore when the announcement came recently that Grande's beatification process is to begin.
Thomas Kelly's book is the first comprehensive analysis in English of Grande's life. He carefully places Grande's ministry and martyrdom in the context of the conference of Latin American bishops held in 1968 in Medellín, Colombia, and the struggle between different elements within the Church that followed.
Grande modelled himself as a servant leader, with a radical approach to his ministry as pastoral liberation.
Grande became a courageous defender and advocate for his suffering communities, insisting that no one has the right to the superfluous while so many are deprived of the essentials.
There were many people, inside and outside the Church, who didn't like what they saw. Grande was not intimidated. 'I'm afraid, my brothers and sisters,' he said, 'that very soon the Bible and the Gospel will not be able to enter our borders. We will only get the covers, because all its pages are subversive ... I fear that if Jesus of Nazareth returned, as in times of old ... down from Chalatenango to San Salvador ... they would surely crucify him again.'
When he heard of Grande's murder, Romero drove out to Aguilares. He knelt in prayer before the body of his dead friend, the clothes still moist with blood. His successor as Archbishop, Rivera Damas, later described this as the moment when Romero 'felt the call from Christ to overcome his natural timidity and to be filled with apostolic courage.'
He announced that on the following Sunday there would be a single Mass in front of the cathedral in San Salvador, at which he would preach; All the other Masses in the archdiocese were cancelled. Over 100,000 people came to hear Romero's funeral sermon. 'I think of him like a brother,'he said of Grande. It was a critical moment in Romero's life.
Read full review: When the Gospel Grows Feet: Rutilio Grande SJ and the Church of El Salvador (The Tablet)