Remembering Monsignor Oscar Romero

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During my trip to El Salvador this week, I visited the Memorial Wall in Parque Cuscatlan, a huge monument with 30,000 names of those killed or “disappeared” during the 1980-1992 Civil War in El Salvador. A few weeks after the annual “Day of the Dead“, the Wall was still decorated with dried flowers, handwritten notes and photographs left by family members who, in many cases, have no other place to come to remember those they lost to the war. One of the names was Monsignor Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador who was murdered in the earliest days of the civil war.

Government officials approved of the conservative Romero’s selection as the Archbishop of El Salvador in 1977. Two weeks later, Monsignor Romero’s close friend Rutilio Grande, was assassinated. A progressive Jesuit priest, Grande had been organizing with poor campesinos. The effect on Archbishop Romero was profound. Over the next three years, he became an outspoken advocate for the poor in El Salvador, hosting a radio program and regularly delivering sermons condemning the violence of both sides of the conflict. Monsignor Romero was murdered by pro-government forces three years later, as he performed a Catholic Mass.

We also visited the Catedral Metropolitana de San Salvador, where Monsignor Oscar Romero was buried after his murder. Over 250,000 Salvadorans attended his funeral, crowding the Catedral as well as the plaza in front. Thirty-four years later, crowds of people still visit his crypt.

“I will not tire of declaring that if we really want an effective end to violence we must remove the violence that lies at the root of all violence: structural violence, social injustice, exclusion of citizens from the management of the country, repression. All this is what constitutes the primal cause, from which the rest flows naturally.”–Monseñor Oscar Romero