Alibris Secondhand Books Standard

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

no greater love: oscar romero

You can tell the people that if they succeed in killing me, that I forgive and bless those who do it. Hopefully, they will realize they are wasting their time. A bishop will die, but the church of God, which is the people, will never perish.

- Oscar Romero

Oscar Romero was a Catholic bishop in El Salvador during a time of upheaval. As bishop, he was known for his conservative theology. Romero believed that an orderly society benefitted everyone, and spoke out against younger priests who were beginning to embrace liberation theology and political activism. He nonetheless was open to dialogue with them, and was close personal friends with Father Rutilio Grande, one of El Salvador's leading proponents of the new theology.

Romero's views began to soften when he was appointed bishop of Santiago de Maria in 1975, where he saw firsthand the poverty of the landless laborers, and the brutality of those in power.

On February 23, 1977, he was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador, replacing the aging Luis Chavez. Romero was seen as a safe choice by the Vatican, and a disappointment to the politically active younger clergy of El Salvador. Seventeen days later, his friend Rutilio Grande was assassinated while driving to Mass.

Romero demanded that the government investigate the killing, but the government took no action. Romero then announced that he would end the cozy relationship the state had enjoyed with the church. He refused to attend any state functions, lest his presence lend them an air of credibility. He was aware that his actions were making some dangerous enemies, but he stood his ground: "When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought 'if they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path'".

Five more priests would be assassinated during Romero's tenure as Archbishop, and none of the deaths would be investigated.

When a left-wing junta ousted President Carlos Humberto Romero (no relation) in October 1979, Oscar Romero initially hoped that they would inaugurate a more just society. His hopes were soon dashed as the junta proved to be just as oppressive as the previous government.

Romero's outspoken criticism of the El Salvadoran government began to attract international attention, and in February 1980 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. In his acceptance speech he tried to bring further attention to what was happening in his country: "In less than three years, more than fifty priests have been attacked, threatened and slandered. Six of them are martyrs, having been assassinated; various others have been tortured, and others expelled from the country. Religious women have also been the object of persecution."

About a month later, on March 24, 1980, a group of soldiers entered the church where Romero was presiding over Mass. During the celebration of the Eucharist, Romero was shot in the heart. His blood spilled onto the altar as he died.

A church that suffers no persecution but enjoys the privileges and support of the things of the earth - beware! - is not the true church of Jesus Christ. A preaching that does not point out sin is not the preaching of the gospel. A preaching that makes sinners feel good, so that they are secured in their sinful state, betrays the gospel's call.

- Oscar Romero



At 2/27/2009 7:39 PM, Blogger Quiet Paths said...

Yes, thank you for reminding me of this man. Such is the stuff saints are made of...


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