Romero Essay, Research Paper
24th March (killed 1980)
Among those commemorated in new statues on the west front of Westminster
“I am bound, as a pastor, by divine command to give my life for those whom I
love, and that is all Salvadoreans, even those who are going to kill me.”
These words appeared in a newspaper just two weeks before Archbishop Romero
was shot while celebrating Holy Communion in the hospital which had been his
home since his enthronement in 1977. Quiet, unassuming, conservative in
temperament and regarded by the church as safely orthodox, he was an
unlikely martyr for the cause of liberation.
Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Goldamez was born (1917) in the town of Cindad
Barrios, in the mountains of El Salvador near the border with Honduras.
Leaving school at twelve he began an apprenticeship as a carpenter, showing
promise as a craftsman, but soon thought about ordination, although his
family were not keen. He trained at San Miguel and San Salvador, before
completing his theological studies in Rome. Because of the war in Europe
there was no member of his family at his ordination in 1942.
Returning to San Salvador in 1944, he served as a country priest before
taking charge of two seminaries. In 1966 he became secretary to the El
Salvador Bishop?s Conference – a post he held for 23 years. He earned a
reputation as an energetic administrator and his inspirational sermons were
broadcast across the city of San Miguel by five radio stations.
Oscar became bishop in 1970, serving first as assistant to the aged
Archbishop of San Salvador and from 1974 as Bishop of Santiago de Maria.
Within three years he was Archbishop of San Salvador.
At that time there was growing unrest in the country, as many became more
aware of the great social injustices of the peasant economy. Nearly 40% of
the land was owned by a tiny percentage of the population – “a nucleus of
families who don?t care about the people? To maintain and increase their
margin of profit they repress the people”. The majority of ordinary people
led impoverished and insecure lives.
Groups of Christians formed to engage in study, worship and group
discussion, aiming to follow the gospels and their implications for society.
These ?Basic Communities? each had their own priest, and a leader elected
from among the group. The landowners were alarmed at the sight of uneducated
peasants choosing their own spokesmen and concerning themselves with social
issues in the name of Christianity. Virulent press campaigns were conducted
against them, with accusations of Marxism. Right-wing gangs emerged to carry
out active persecution and killings. Men and women just vanished without
trace or reason. Death squads roamed the countryside and soldiers attacked
any protesters in the square of the capital. Romero protested at the killing
of men and women who had “taken to the streets in orderly fashion to
petition for justice and liberty”. There were, of course, those who sought
change through violence, seizing land and giving landowners cause to react,
but Oscar Romero condemned all forms of what he called ?the mysticism of
One priest, Fr. Rutilio Grande, was particularly outspoken in denouncing the
injustices against the 30,000 peasants working thirty-five sugar-cane farms
in his area. Archbishop Romero defended Fr. Grande against official
criticism: “The government should not consider a priest who takes a stand
for social justice, as a politician, or a subversive element, when he is
fulfilling his mission in the politics of the common good”. In March 1977,
Fr. Grande and two companions were murdered. Archbishop Romero was summoned
to view the bodies – a hint of what happens to meddlesome priests. This and
the lack of any official enquiry convinced him that the government employed
- or at least supported – people who killed for political convenience. He
responded by prohibiting the celebration of Mass anywhere in the country on
the following Sunday except at his own Cathedral, a celebration to which all
the faithful were invited – and came – overflowing in their thousands into
the plaza outside. The event served to unite the faithful and remove any
doubts about Romero?s commitment to justice. The government of course was
furious, even more so as the church began to document civil rights abuses
and seek the truth in a country governed by lies. Visiting the Pope in 1979,
Archbishop Romero presented him with seven dossiers filled with reports and
documents describing injustices in El Salvador. Less than a year later he
In the sermon just minutes before his death, Archbishop Romero reminded his
congregation of the parable of the wheat. “Those who surrender to the
service of the poor through love of Christ, will live like the grains of
wheat that dies. It only apparently dies. If it were not to die, it would
remain a solitary grain. The harvest comes because of the grain that dies?
We know that every effort to improve society, above all when society is so
full of injustice and sin, is an effort that God blesses; that God wants;
that God demands of us”.
He gladly accepted what he knew would happen