Helpful Texts

Link zum Mandala von Bruder Klaus
Alexander Foitzik {*}

San Romero

Archbishop Romero was Murdered Thirty Years ago


From: Herder Korrespondenz, 5/2010, P. 221 et sequ.
webmaster's own, not authorized translation


The 30th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero was a little different from earlier ones. Naturally, also at this year's commemoration of March 24, 1980, i.e. the day when Romero was shot by a sniper during the Eucharistic celebration, the profound veneration of the former archbishop of San Salvador by the population of his home country and far beyond became apparent once again. The Brazilian Bishop Pedro Casaldáliga put this veneration by the Latin American people in a nutshell, "He is the 'Holy Romero of America'". Tens of thousands took part in the commemorations, and through the streets of the capital they carried pictures of him who has become almost a symbol of a church that converted to the poor and oppressed.

Already at the 20th anniversary of the assassination it became apparent to what extent the Central American country changed after the horrific civil war, which lasted twelve years and in which approximately 75.000 people lost their lives. At that time, the former guerrilla organization "Frente Farabundo Martí de la Liberacíon Nacional" (FMLN) had as a democratic party obtained shortly before the majority in the National Assembly (see HK, June 2000, p. 301 et sequ.).

At the 30th anniversary of the death, the government of El Salvador participated for the first time in a memorial service for Romero and the parliament declared the archbishop's day of death to be a national day of remembrance. Since last year Mauricio Funes is head of the state, a president who - of course not without political calculation - describes Romero as a spiritual leader and model, and who said already at his inauguration that he wanted to do everything possible in order to expose at last the background of the murder and to make those responsible accountable (see HK, June 2009, 290 ff.). Just as he has also promised to solve another dark chapter of the civil war: the murder of six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter, twenty years ago on the campus of the Jesuit University in San Salvador. Funes has now repeatedly apologized to the family of Romero for the archbishop's murder in which the state was entangled.

The election of the moderate left-wing journalist, who was presented by FMLN and educated at a Jesuit school and university, put an end to the 20-year rule of the right ARENA party. Its founder, Major Roberto d'Aubuisson, was the suspected principal for the murder of Romero. Since the findings of an independent Truth Commission, there is actually no longer any doubt about it; but the legal proceedings are prevented by a general amnesty issued in 1993.

The sermons of Romero, who in 1977 had been appointed Archbishop of San Salvador, grew politically sharper and sharper, though he had assumed this office as a man who was above all pious and harmless for the military and the small economic and social elite of the country. The murder of a Jesuit who was his close friend is generally regarded as the key moment for the archbishop's conversion to the large number of poor and oppressed in the country. At the beginning of 1980, he had then in his sermons repeatedly appealed to the conscience of the Christian soldiers and police to oppose the brutal repression of their own brothers and sisters. This went too far for his opponents.

Also on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the death in the country the hopes were high that good news finally comes from Rome. For Archbishop Romero the cause of beatification has been going on since the mid-nineties at the competent Congregation in Rome. And there was time and again a cause for hope. Despite major concerns of his advisors, John Paul II for instance insisted on visiting the grave of the archbishop; in the Holy Year 2000 he added Romero to the list of martyrs of the 20th century.

In early February of this year the Episcopal Conference of El Salvador asked Benedict XVI for a speedy conclusion of the causa of beatification. Already at his inauguration José Luis Escobar Alas, who last year was appointed new archbishop of San Salvador, had declared that he wanted to support Romero's beatification. He thus distanced himself also from the line of his immediate predecessor, the Opus Dei Archbishop Fernando Sáenz Lacalle, to whom Romero's beatification was certainly no affair of the heart.

But why must the country and with it entire Latin America wait for so long? Already in 2005, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints had confirmed the orthodoxy of Romero's theology. And what is the viewpoint of Benedict XVI? In 2007 the pope praised Romero as a great witness of faith, a virtuous Christian, and emphasized his commitment to peace. Skeptics, however, point to the fact that Joseph Ratzinger as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and probably even still as Pope has made life difficult for Jon Sobrino. The Jesuit Sobrino is one of the most famous and distinguished theologians of Latin America and is often characterised as one of the fathers of liberation theology. He was a close companion of Archbishop Romero in his last three years of life (see HK, April, 2007, 184f.).

The representative of the Salvadoran Episcopal Conference, Rafael Urrutias, gives another reason for the laborious cause of beatification: Romero was murdered by Catholics, hence by people of the same faith. This was a problem for Rome, because martyrs are normally not "produced" by Catholics. And it is doubtful whether the enthusiasm of the left-wing leaders in Latin America will be beneficial for Romero's speedy beatification.



For them, for Brazil's President Lula da Silva, Ecuador's Rafael Correa and his counterpart from Paraguay, and ex-bishop Fernando Lugo Romero's final resting place has almost become a pilgrimage site.

But one thing is beyond doubt: All this does not spoil the veneration of Archbishop Romero as "San Romero" in El Salvador and far beyond its borders.


Link to 'Public Con-Spiration for-with-of the Poor'