Monsenor Oscar Romero

In El Salvador we visited this chapel where Archbishop Romero was assassinated. The words on the wall behind the altar read, “At this altar Archbishop Romero offered his life for the people.”
It was a quiet summer morning, and a woman was arranging flowers by the altar. There was a great sense of sadness and holiness in this site of a martyrdom. The students all went immediately to pews to pray. I stood at the back of the chapel and kept silence.
Romero’s cause is delayed in Rome. Some people say it is because he was allied with liberation theology. I don’t think he was. He stood up for the poor. He spoke out against violence, intimidation and persecution done both by the right and the left wings in his country. I believe his cause is held up because he had been adopted by the left wing in El Salvador. Around the country you see political portraits of him next to Che Guevara. Because of this he has, unfairly, become a political figure, and if Rome canonizes him it appears that they are supporting the left. This would be very tricky in a country where the present political stability is a hard won and delicate thing. 
Rome’s silence is wise. Everyone who is open minded and reads the story of Romero realizes that he was a saint and martyr. The formal process may still take some time because of the other complicating factors.

  • bernadette

    It`s very strange.. I was going to leave a comment asking how Romero is perceived now, 18 years later, but decided against it. However, since you mention it.. do you know what local people there now think now of him ? how is he spoken of ?I have always been concerned about his promotion of the social gospel to the exclusion(in my possibly limited view)of everything else.Yet his martydom is indisputable – he knew his life was in danger but he did not desist from vocally supporting the under-dogs. And I love the fact that he did this via an underground radio station.But something keeps ringing an alarm bell with me about him. Was he a political activist using The Church as a cloak, or a genuine saint, whose charism was the championing of the poor and down-trodden. I honestly don`t know.I do know that silence was the hall-mark of the saints I admire -but, surely there`s room for the occasional loud-mouth in the communion of saints. (Being a loud-mouth myself and therefore keeping my bets open.)

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    He is loved by the whole spectrum of Catholics in El Salvador. You must remember that he was considered a conservative when he was appointed, and only began championing justice for the poor once he really began to listen to them. Also, I think you are mistaken that he was in favor of social justice to the exclusion of all else. His own writings show that he was concerned first and foremost with holiness and his record is that he was also concerned with all the proper pastoral concerns of a good bishop–liturgy, priestly formation etc.

  • Terry Nelson

    Thanks for this Father – I think the Archbishop is indeed a martyr and a saint and I agree with your assessment as to why the process has been delayed.

  • radio45

    “Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan gave their lives on December 2, 1980. Receive them Lord, into your kingdom.” This plaque along a roadside is a reminder that Monsenor Romero was not the only one to die in this war. These 3 nuns and one young lay woman died because they wanted to improve the lives of the poor children. They, too, deserve a thought and a prayer or two. The Church is not going away any time soon. There is plenty of time and saints to be named.

  • Radical Catholic Mom

    Bernadette: What is your source for your assertion that Romero promoted social justice to the exclusion of everything else? Have you read his writings? His homilies? His diary? As for what the locals believe: Their government (who was responsible for murdering Romero) has done an outstanding job on disimformation campaign. Many guanacos (Salvadorans) whom I have encountered don’t know what to think. The poor view him as their saint and if you travel throughout Central America he and Bishop Gerardi are called the Saints of America.Just remember Bernadette: In 500 years of history in Central American, only 2 Bishops have been murdered and both within 16 years of each other by US sponsored death squads: Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador in 1980 and Bishop Juan Gerardi of Guatemala in 1996.And like radio 45 mentions, many many other people were martyred including the Jesuits at the University of Central American in San Salvador in 1989 and the Sisters, as well as many Church catechists, choir members, workers of Caritas, etc.

  • jannfreed

    I just returned with a church delegation to El Salvador and we visited the same places. It was amazing how the people want to keep the abuse alive in hopes that it never happens again. In the museum attached to the University there were actual photos of the killing in albums. There were drawings hanging in the church. We need to remember in hopes that this kind of senseless killing stops!