Today marks the 34th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Salvador.
Archbishop Romero continues to be held in very high regard throughout Central America, his picture adorning everything from t-shirts to hats to street graffiti, his presence in art rivaling that of Che Guevara. Songs, movies, and even children’s musicals have been written about the martyred archbishop, and he is recognized with a feast day in The Episcopal Church.
He was only archbishop for three years–surprising to remember, considering his lasting impact. During his time as leader of the church in El Salvador, he preached against the poverty, violence, and oppression that afflicted the people of his land, insisting that to harm a fellow human being was to harm the image of God, and no less. He brought home the incarnation to El Salvador and applied it to people’s lives, and he was killed celebrating the Eucharist.
In his own Roman Catholic Church, the effort to make Romero a saint long seemed stalled. In 1994, John Paul II allowed the case for canonization to be opened, but it soon halted.
You can probably attribute this to political problems– both John Paul II and Benedict XI were noted vociforous objectors to liberation theology–though Romero himself also had a few quibbles with it, though different ones–and neither pope wanted to aid the other side in what they perceived to be an ongoing struggle in a European culture war.
However,the last year has changed things with the election of a new pope. Francis survived the dirty wars in Argentina, and comes from a crucible of liberation theology himself. On the day of his installation mass as pope, when the current First Lady of El Salvador greeted him, Pope Francis told her that he believed the canonization of Romero would happen very soon. So, we’ll see. (Read more on the process of Romero’s canonization thru Rome here.)
In the meantime, Oscar Romero continues to provide hope and inspiration through his life and ministry to people around the world.