Today, March 24th, marks the 30th anniversary of the assassination of El Salvadoran Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero.
The National Catholic Reporter has this profile of the man:
“I have often been threatened with death,” Archbishop Oscar Romero told a Guatemalan reporter two weeks before his assassination, 30 years ago on March 24, 1980. “If they kill me, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people. If the threats come to be fulfilled, from this moment I offer my blood to God for the redemption and resurrection of El Salvador. Let my blood be a seed of freedom and the sign that hope will soon be reality.”
Romero spent his years up until 1977 as a typical quiet, pious, conservative cleric. Indeed, as bishop, he sided with the greedy landlords, important power brokers, and violent death squads. When he became archbishop, the Jesuits at the Univeristy of Central America in San Salvador were crushed. They immediately wrote him off — all but one, Rutilio Grande, who reached out to Romero in the weeks after his installation and urged him to learn from the poor and speak on their behalf.
Grande himself was a giant for social justice. He organized the rural poor in Aguilares, and paid for it with his life on March 12, 1977. Standing over Grande’s dead body that night, Romero was transformed into one of the world’s great champions for the poor and oppressed. From then on, he stood with the poor, and denounced every act of violence, injustice and war. He became a fiery prophet of justice and peace, “the voice of the voiceless,” and in Jon Sobrino’s words, “a new Jeremiah.”
Read it all.
Earlier this month the Texas State Board of Education met to finalize textbook standards for the coming year. “Romero was included in the standards for world history until the board decided otherwise, saying he was not significant enough.” Jon Stewart has more on that school board debate and vote.
Other coverage of today’s anniversary:
Amnesty International “urged authorities in El Salvador to repeal an amnesty law that protects those responsible for thousands of killings and disappearances during the country’s 12-year armed conflict, including the killing of Catholic priest Monsignor Romero on 24 March 1980.”
Tim’s El Salvador Blog: “In the past, many sectors of Salvadoran society have commemorated March 24 with marches, vigils, concerts and other events. Eighteen years after the signing of the peace accords which ended El Salvador’s civil war, the national government is finally joining with the rest of the country in commemorating El Salvador’s beloved pastor.” (Links to Spanish language news.)
[A]t Westminster Abbey in London … in niches above the west gate [are] statues of 10 Christian martyrs of the 20th Century. Oscar Romero is there. So is Dr. Martin Luther King. Statues honor Dietrich Bonhoffer, a Lutheran pastor killed by the Nazis, St. Maximilian Kolbe, another Nazi victim, and Wang Zhiming, a pastor-evangelist murdered during China’s cultural revolution. These martyrs talked truth to power — fearlessly. All resisted tyranny and totalitarianism. All stood for social justice.
In a letter to The Oregonian, retired Associated Press writer Joseph Frazier recalled interviewing Romero in his sparse apartment on the grounds of a hospital run by nuns. Frazier asked about papal direction. “He said it was impossible to provide spiritual leadership while ignoring the needs and aspirations of the people, and if that flew in the face of papal directives, then so be it. Now then, would I like a cup of coffee?” Frazier wrote.