Monsignor Romero: Martyr of a Church in Troubled Times

Given the welcome news the Pope Francis has restarted the cause for the canonisation of Oscar Romero tombMonsignor Oscar Romero, I happily present this reflection on his life and example written by Jorge Waidkuns:

I would like to thank Father Ray Sanchez for inviting me to write a few articles to the Passionist blog Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation. I feel honored in being called to humbly contribute with some concepts and ideas in the hope to promote the objective of the Passionist principles.

This article refers to the life of Mons. Romero, archbishop of El Salvador in the 70s, whose life and apostolate are crucial in understanding the pursuance of social justice and the practice of the Christian life.

Archbishop Monsignor Romero

In 1977, Monsignor Romero was appointed archbishop of San Salvador; his appointment was met with surprise, dismay and even enthusiasm among groups. This appointment Romerowas welcomed in government circles but was met with disappointment by radical priests (especially those openly aligning with Marxism) who feared that with his conservative reputation he would put the brakes on their liberation theology commitment to the poor.[1]

Witness of Horror:

As archbishop, he witnessed numerous violations of human rights and began a ministry speaking out on behalf of the poor and victims of the country’s civil war. Chosen to be archbishop for his conservatism, once in office his conscience led him to embrace a non-violent form of liberation theology, putting him in the line of Mahatma Gandhi and 2012228143526525580_20Martin Luther King. Like them, he was martyred for his non-violent advocacy.

On March 12, a progressive Jesuit priest and personal friend Rutilio Grande, who had been creating self-reliance groups among the poor campesinos, was assassinated. His death had a profound impact on Romero who later stated “When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought ‘if they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path”.

Romero urged the government of Arturo Armando Molina to investigate the crime, but they ignored his calls. The press, which was censored, also remained silent.

A new tension was noted with the closure of some schools and the absence of Catholic priests in official acts. In his response to this murder, he revealed a radicalism that had not been evident before. He began to speak out against the poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture taking place in the country.

He began to be noticed internationally, with a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. In February 1980, he was given an honorary doctorate by the Catholic University of Leuven. On his visit to Europe to receive this honor, he met Pope John Paul II and expressed his concerns at what was happening in his country. Romero argued that it was problematic to support the government in El Salvador because it legitimized the terror and assassinations.

In 1979, the Revolutionary Government Junta came to power amidst a wave of human rights abuses from paramilitary right-wing groups and from the government. Romero Jimmy_Carterspoke out against U.S. military aid to the new government and wrote to President Jimmy Carter in February 1980, warning that increased military aid would “undoubtedly sharpen the injustice and the repression inflicted on the organized people, whose struggle has often been for their most basic human rights”. Carter, concerned that El Salvador would become “another Nicaragua”, ignored Romero’s pleas.[2]

A Life for Social Justice

Romero was shot on 24 March 1980 while celebrating Mass at a small chapel located in a hospital called “La Divina Providencia”, one day after a sermon in which he had called on Salvadoran soldiers, as Christians, to obey God’s higher order and to stop carrying out the government’s repression and violations of basic Human Rights As soon as he finished his sermon, Romero proceeded to the middle of the altar and at that moment he was shot.[3]

Importance of Archbishop Romero’s Example

The life and example of Monsignor Romero has validity in this times of trouble around the world, his example is an inspiration for those pursuing social justice and hope for those who are suffering inequality. Monsignor Romero’s legacy cannot be seen as a local 4.2.7and isolated story in a lost Central American country.

Monsignor Romero’s message is about denouncing injustice and fighting for Human Rights. These are current issues all around the world and as Christians we have the obligation to follow the love for truth and justice as Monsignor Romero did, because in loving truth and justice we love our neighbour as Jesus thought us.








About Passionist JPIC Australia

I am a priest with the Passionist Congregation and a part of our Australian Province which includes Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam. I have been ordained since December of 1992. I was born in the Philippines, though am from Spanish decent. I came to Australia in 1972 with my family when I was 11 years old, and we settled in Brisbane. That is where I did the rest of my growing up. On completing high school, I went to Queensland University where I studied for 4 years, completing a B.Sc. with a major in Microbiology. The following year I decided to enter into the Passionist Congregation to study for the priesthood. I trained for 9 years, and have been a priest for 25 years. In my time as a priest I have been Director of the Passionist Family Group Movement in Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland; conducted over 400 Parish Missions all around Australia and New Zealand, but particularly in Victoria and Western Australia; worked in adult faith education, Sacramental preparation for children and parents; Hospital chaplaincy; High school chaplaincy, in-services and retreats. In the year 200 I became engaged in developing young adult retreat teams and training them to carry on our high school retreat programs. I am also chair of our Province’s committee for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC). I am also a member of ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans).
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4 Responses to Monsignor Romero: Martyr of a Church in Troubled Times

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