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Óscar Romero

Óscar Romero
Archbishop of San Salvador
See San Salvador
Enthroned 1977
Reign ended 1980
Predecessor Luis Ch¡vez
Successor Arturo Rivera
Ordination 4 April 1942
Consecration 23 February 1977
Personal details
Born 15 August 1917(1917-08-15)
Ciudad Barrios
Died 24 March 1980 (aged 62)
San Salvador
Buried San Salvador Metropolitan Cathedral, San Salvador
Denomination Roman Catholic

Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Gald¡mez (August 15, 1917 â March 24, 1980)[1] was a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in El Salvador. He became the fourth Archbishop of San Salvador, succeeding Luis Ch¡vez. He was assassinated on March 24, 1980.

After his assassination, Romero was succeeded by Monsignor Arturo Rivera. In 1997, a cause for beatification and canonization into sainthood was opened for Romero, and Pope John Paul II bestowed upon him the title of Servant of God. The canonization process continues.[2] He is considered by some the unofficial patron saint of the Americas and El Salvador and is often referred to as "San Romero" by Catholics in El Salvador. Outside of Catholicism, Romero is honored by other religious denominations of Christendom, including the Church of England through the Calendar in Common Worship. He is one of the ten 20th century martyrs who are depicted in statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey in London, a testament to his wide respect even beyond the Catholic Church.[3] In 2008, he was chosen as one of the 15 Champions of World Democracy by the Europe-based magazine A Different View.[4]


[edit] Early life

Part of a series of articles on
20th Century
Persecutions of the
Catholic Church

Cristero War â Iniquis Afflictisque
Saints â José S¡nchez del Río
Persecution in Mexico â Miguel Pro

498 Spanish Martyrs
Red Terror (Spain) â Dilectissima Nobis
Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War
Martyrs of Daimiel
Bartolome Blanco Marquez
Innocencio of Mary Immaculate

Mit brennender Sorge â Alfred Delp
Alois Grimm â Rupert Mayer
Bernhard Lichtenberg â Max Josef Metzger
Karl Leisner â Maximilian Kolbe
Erich Klausener

Persecution in China â Ad Sinarum Gentem
Cupimus Imprimis â Ad Apostolorum Principis
Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei â Beda Chang
Dominic Tang

Stefan Wyszyński
108 Martyrs of World War Two â Policies
Poloniae Annalibus â Gloriosam Reginam
Invicti Athletae â Jerzy PopieÅuszko

Eastern Europe
Jozsef Mindszenty â Eugene Bossilkov
Severian Baranyk â Josef Beran
Zynoviy Kovalyk â Aloysius Stepinac
Meminisse Juvat â Anni Sacri
S¡ra Salkah¡zi

Bismark Carballo â Miguel Obando y Bravo

El Salvador
Maura Clarke â Ignacio Ellacuría
Ita Ford â Rutilio Grande
Dorothy Kazel â Ignacio Martín-Baró
Segundo Montes â Óscar Romero â Jean Donovan

Persecution of Christians
Church persecutions 1939-1958
Vatican and Eastern Europe
Vatican USSR policies
Eastern Catholic persecutions
Terrible Triangle
Conspiracy of Silence

Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Gald¡mez was born on August 15, 1917, to Santos Romero and Guadalupe de Jésus Gald¡mez in Ciudad Barrios.

Coat of Arms of bishop Óscar A. Romero

On May 11, 1919, at the age of one, Óscar was baptized into the Catholic Church by Fr. Cecilio Morales. Romero had seven brothers and sisters: Gustavo, Zaída, Rómulo, Mamerto, Arnoldo and Gaspar, and Aminta (who died shortly after birth.)[1][5]

He could often be found at one of the town's two churches during his free time. At age seven Romero came down with an unknown life-threatening illness, from which he eventually recovered.

Romero entered public school, which only offered grades one through three. When finished with public school, Romero was privately tutored by Anita Iglesias until age twelve or thirteen. Throughout this time Óscar's father, Santos, had been training Romero in carpentry. Romero showed exceptional proficiency as an apprentice. Santos wanted to offer his son the skill of a trade, because in El Salvador studies seldom led to employment.

[edit] Priesthood

On April 4, 1942, Romero was ordained a Catholic priest in Rome. Romero remained in Italy to obtain a doctoral degree in theology which specialized in ascetical theology. In 1943 before finishing, he was summoned back home from Fascist Italy by the bishop at age 27. He traveled home with his good friend Father Valladares, who was also doing doctoral work in Rome. En route home they made stops in Spain and Cuba, being detained by Cuban police for having come from Benito Mussolini's Italy and placed in an internment camp. After several months in prison Valladares became sick and some priests of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer helped to have the two transferred to a hospital. From the hospital they were released from Cuban custody and allowed back home, where they sailed for Mexico and then back home to El Salvador.

Romero began working as a parish priest in Anamorós but then moved to San Miguel where he worked for over 20 years. He promoted various apostolic[disambiguation needed] groups, started an Alcoholics Anonymous group, helped in the construction of San Miguel's cathedral and supported devotion to the Virgin of the Peace. He was later appointed Rector of the inter-diocese seminary in San Salvador. In 1966, he began his public life when chosen to be the Secretary of the Episcopal Conference for El Salvador. He also became the director of the archdiocesan newspaper Orientación, which became fairly conservative while he was editor, defending the traditional magisterium of the Catholic Church.

In 1970 he was appointed auxiliary bishop to San Salvador Archbishop Luis Ch¡vez, a move not welcomed by the more progressive members of the Priesthood in El Salvador. He took up his appointment as Bishop of the Diocese of Santiago de María in December 1975.[6]

[edit] Archbishop

A bust of Óscar Romero

On February 23, 1977, he was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador. His appointment was met with surprise, dismay, and even incredulity. While this appointment was welcomed by the government, many priests were disappointed, especially those openly aligning with Marxism. The Marxist priests feared that his conservative reputation would negatively affect liberation theology's commitment to the poor.

On March 12, a progressive Jesuit priest and personal friend Rutilio Grande, who had been creating self-reliance groups among the poor campesinos, was assassinated. His death had a profound impact on Romero who later stated, "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'".[7] Romero urged Arturo Armando Molina's government to investigate, but they ignored his request. Furthermore, the censored press remained silent.[8]

Tension was noted by the closure of schools and the lack of Catholic priests invited to participate in government. In response to Fr. Rutilio's murder, Romero revealed a radicalism that had not been evident earlier. He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture. As a result, Romero began to be noticed internationally. In February 1980, he was given an honorary doctorate by the Catholic University of Leuven. On his visit to Europe to receive this honor, he met Pope John Paul II and expressed his concerns at what was happening in his country. Romero argued that it was problematic to support the Salvadoran government because it legitimized terror and assassinations.[8]

In 1979, the Revolutionary Government Junta came to power amidst a wave of human rights abuses by paramilitary right-wing groups and the government. Romero criticized the United States for giving military aid to the new government and wrote to President Jimmy Carter in February 1980, warning that increased US military aid would "undoubtedly sharpen the injustice and the repression inflicted on the organized people, whose struggle has often been for their most basic human rights". [1] Carter, concerned that El Salvador would become "another Nicaragua" ignored Romero's pleas and continued military aid to the Salvadoran government.

[edit] Statements on persecution of the Church

Archbishop Romero denounced what he characterized as the persecution of the Church:

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. The archdiocesan radio station, Catholic educational institutions and Christian religious institutions have been constantly attacked, menaced, threatened with bombs. Various parish convents have been sacked.[9]

â Oscar Romero

[edit] Assassination and funeral

Photo appeared in El País on 7 November 2009 with the information that the state of El Salvador recognized its responsibility in the crime.[10]

Romero was shot on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass at a small chapel located in a hospital called "La Divina Providencia", one day after a sermon where he had called on Salvadoran soldiers, as Christians, to obey God's higher order and to stop carrying out the government's repression and violations of basic human rights. According to an audio-recording of the Mass, he was shot while elevating the chalice at the end of the Eucharistic rite. When he was shot, his blood spilled over the altar along with the sacramental wine.

Even though the Vatican under Pope John Paul II did not view Romero's closeness to liberation theology favorably (also their attitude toward his involvement in condemning the military's and the government's actions and the guerrilla's acts), it nonetheless blatantly condemned the assassination as a murder and a direct sacrilege, even while not formally recognizing him as a martyr.

It is believed that the assassins were members of a death squad. This view was supported in 1993 by an official U.N. report, which identified the man who ordered the killing as former Major and School of the Americas graduate Roberto D'Aubuisson.[11] He had also planned to overthrow the government in a coup. Later he founded the political party Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), and organized death squads that systematically carried out politically-motivated assassinations and other human rights abuses in El Salvador. Álvaro Rafael Saravia, a former captain in the Salvadoran Air Force, was chief of security for Roberto D'Aubuisson and an active member of these death squads. In 2003, a U.S. human rights organization, the Center for Justice and Accountability, filed a civil action against Saravia. In 2004, he was found liable by a US District Court under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) (28 U.S.C. â 1350) for aiding, conspiring, and participating in the assassination of Archbishop Romero. Saravia was ordered to pay $10 million dollars for extrajudicial killing and crimes against humanity pursuant to the ATCA. Doe v. Rafael Saravia, 348 F. Supp. 2d 1112 (E.D. Cal. 2004) (providing an excellent account of the events leading up, and subsequent, to Archbishop Romero's death).

Romero is buried in the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Salvador (Catedral Metropolitana de San Salvador). The funeral mass (rite of visitation and requiem) on March 30, 1980, in San Salvador was attended by more than 250,000 mourners from all over the world. Viewing this attendance as a protest, Jesuit priest John Dear has said, "Romeroâs funeral was the largest demonstration in Salvadoran history, some say in the history of Latin America."

During the ceremony, a smoke bomb exploded on the Cathedral square (Plaza Gerardo Barrios) and subsequently there were rifle-fire shots that came from surrounding buildings, including the National Palace. Many people were killed by gunfire and during the following mass panic; official sources talk of 31 overall casualties, journalists indicated between 30 and 50 dead.[11] Some witnesses claimed it was government security forces that threw bombs into the crowd, and army sharpshooters, dressed as civilians, that fired into the chaos from the balcony or roof of the National Palace. However, there are contradictory accounts as to the course of the events and "probably, one will never know the truth about the interrupted funeral."[11] This proved to be a turning point in the history of the Salvadoran conflict, a peak in the power of popular organizations aligned with the left, whose popularity declined after this event under the suspicion that they attempted to capitalize on this tragic event for political gain.

Twenty-five years later, the BBC recalled the horror:

"Tens of thousands of mourners who had gathered for Romero's funeral Mass in front of the cathedral in San Salvador were filmed fleeing in terror as army gunners on the rooftops around the square opened fire.... One person who was there told us he remembered the piles of shoes left behind by those who escaped with their lives."

As the gunfire continued, the body was buried in a crypt beneath the sanctuary. Even after the burial, people continued to line up to pay homage to their martyred prelate.[1][12][13][14][15]

On March 24, 2010âthe thirtieth anniversary of Romero's deathâSalvadoran president Mauricio Funes offered an official state apology for Romero's assassination. Speaking before Romero's family, representatives of the Catholic Church, diplomats, and government officials,[16] Funes said those involved in the assassination "âunfortunately acted with the protection, collaboration or participation of state agents". [17]

[edit] Canonization proposal

[edit] Spiritual life

Romero noted in his diary on February 4, 1943: "In recent days the Lord has inspired in me a great desire for holiness.... I have been thinking of how far a soul can ascend if it lets itself be possessed entirely by God." Commenting on this passage, James R. Brockman, S.J., Romero's biographer and author of Romero: A Life, said that "All the evidence available indicates that he continued on his quest for holiness until the end of his life. But he also matured in that quest." [18]

According to Brockman, Romero's spiritual journey had some of these characteristics:

  1. love for the Church of Rome, shown by his episcopal motto, "to be of one mind with the Church", a phrase he took from St. Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises,
  2. a tendency to make a very deep examination of conscience,
  3. an emphasis on sincere piety,
  4. mortification and penance through his duties,
  5. providing protection for his chastity,
  6. spiritual direction (Romero said he "entrusted with great satisfaction the spiritual direction of my life and that of other priests" to priests of Opus Dei),
  7. "being one with the Church incarnated in this people which stands in need of liberation,"
  8. eagerness for contemplative type of prayer and also finding God in others,
  9. fidelity to the will of God,
  10. self-offering to Jesus Christ.

[edit] Process of canonization

On the tenth anniversary of the assassination in 1990, the sitting prelate archbishop of San Salvador, Msgr. Arturo Rivera, appointed a postulator to prepare documentation for a cause of beatification and canonization of Romero. The documents were formally accepted by Pope John Paul II and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 1997, and Romero was given the title of "Servant of God". The process continues today with further investigation of the heroism and martyrdom of Romero. Upon the declaration of heroism and martyrdom, it is expected that Romero will achieve the title of "Venerable". If the decree finds that Romero was a martyr, there would be no further obstacles to his beatification. A declaration of only heroic virtue, however, would require that a miracle must be attributed to Romero in order for him to be declared Blessed.[19]

Three decades after Romero's assassination, the canonization cause is stalled. In March 2005, Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, the Vatican official in charge of the drive, announced that Romero's cause had cleared an unprecedented hurdle, having survived a theological audit by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the time headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later elected Pope Benedict XVI) and that beatification could follow within six months.[20] Pope John Paul II died within weeks of those remarks. Predictably, the transition of the new Pontiff slowed down the work of canonizations and beatifications. Pope Benedict XVI additionally instituted liturgical changes that had the overall effect of reining in the Vatican's so-called "factory of saints."[21] Later that year, an October 2005 interview by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, appeared to stall the prospect of an impending Romero beatification. Asked if Msgr. Paglia's predictions checked out, Cardinal Saraiva responded, "Not as far as I know today."[22] In November 2005, a Jesuit magazine signaled that Romero's beatification was still "years away."[23]

Many suspect that the delay in the declaration of heroism and martyrdom is due to the fact that Romero is closely tied to, but not directly involved with, the liberation theology movement espoused especially by the Jesuits of Latin America. The charge has been dismissed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints who have pointed out that Romero has not yet met certain criteria to move on to the next levels of the inquests, processes which have historically taken decades to roll into motion.

[edit] Romero in popular culture

[edit] Television and film

[edit] Visual arts

From the Gallery of 20th century martyrs at Westminster Abbey- Mother Elizabeth of Russia, Revd. Martin Luther King, Archbishop Óscar Romero and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer

[edit] Poetry and song

[edit] See also

Catholic priests assassinated in El Salvador during and after Óscar Romero's time as archbishop (1977â1980):

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c "Romero biography". Kellogg Institute, Notre Dame University. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  2. ^ (Spanish) "Proceso de Canonización Monseñor Romero". Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  3. ^ "Westminster Abbey: Oscar Romero". Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  4. ^ A Different View, Issue 19, January 2008.
  5. ^ Details about Aminta
  6. ^ "Romero biography through Internet Archive". Archdiocese of San Salvador canonization site. Retrieved 2008-11-20. 
  7. ^ ), Michael A. Hayes (Chaplain; Tombs, David (2001-04). Truth and memory: the Church and human rights in El Salvador and Guatemala. Gracewing Publishing. ISBN 9780852445242. .
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ Speech at Lovaine University, Belgium, (Feb. 2, 1980).
  10. ^ Spanish newspaper El País retrieved on 7 November 2009
  11. ^ a b c Morozzo p. 351-2, 354, 364
  12. ^ "Chronology". Chronology of the Salvadoran Civil War, Kellogg Institute, University of Notre Dame. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  13. ^ "Requiem for Romero". BBC News. March 23, 2005. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  14. ^ John Dear. "Oscar Romero, Presente!". Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  15. ^ Christopher Dickey. "40 Killed in San Salvador: 40 Killed at Rites For Slain Prelate; Bombs, Bullets Disrupt Archbishop's Funeral". Washington Post Foreign Service. pp. A1. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  16. ^ Antonio Soriano (2010-03-24). "El Presidente pide perdón por muerte [The President apologizes for murder]" (in Spanish). El Mundo. El Salvador. Retrieved 2010-03-25. "âEn estas circunstancias y en mi calidad de Presidente de la República, pido perdón en nombre del Estado salvadoreño por ese magnicidio perpetrado hace 30 añosâ, expresó el mandatario frente a representantes de la iglesia católica, familiares de Romero, cuerpo diplom¡tico y funcionarios del gobierno central." 
  17. ^ "Official El Salvador apology for Oscar Romero's murder". BBC News. 2010-03-25. Retrieved 2010-03-25. "The archbishop, he said, was a victim of right-wing death squads "who unfortunately acted with the protection, collaboration or participation of state agents"." 
  18. ^ James Brockman, S.J.. "James R. Brockman, S.J.: The Spiritual Journey of Oscar Romero". Spirituality Today. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  19. ^ "The Making of a Saint: A Interview with Msgr. Robert Sarno". Lay Witness. Nov/Dec 2004. 
  20. ^ "Catholic World News : Beatification cause advanced for Archbishop Romero". Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  21. ^ "Will the Pope ever make fewer saints?".,10987,1059021,00.html. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  22. ^ "30Days - Blessed among their people, Interview with Cardinal José Saraiva Martins". Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  23. ^ "CNS STORY: Magazine says Archbishop Romero was killed for actions of faith". Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  24. ^ Romero by Roger Ebert 2008-04-14
  25. ^ "Romero Days 2010 March 24-29". Retrieved 14 May 2010. 
  26. ^ Guillermoprieto, Alma (27 May 2010). "Death Comes for the Archbishop". The New York Review of Books LVII (9): 41â2. Retrieved 14 May 2010 
  27. ^ James, E. Wyn (2005). "Painting the World Green: Dafydd Iwan and the Welsh Protest Ballad". Folk Music Journal 8 (5): 594â618. 

[edit] External links

Preceded by
Luis Ch¡vez
Archbishop of San Salvador
Succeeded by
Arturo Rivera

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