El Salvador’s Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero was shot and killed by right-wing assassins thirty-one years ago today. The murder was ordered by Roberto D’Aubuisson, a leader of the ARENA party who was trained by the United States’ School of the Americas which still operates today. The significance of Monseñor’s life, his pioneering human rights work and his martyrdom weigh heavily on the hearts and minds of Central and Latin America and throughout the world.
As President Obama visited his tomb this week, many of us were reminded of the letter Romero wrote to President Carter before his death asking for the US not to interfere in his country economically, militarily or in any way. It was a bold move, but Monseñor’s love for the Salvadoran people was uncompromised. And because he loved his people so publicly and with such fervor for justice, we too were able to cultivate a greater love for humanity and truth.
Monseñor Romero was a human rights pioneer at a time when no international treaties existed. As Dr. Roberto Cuellar points out, “Today, when we are saturated with pacts, treaties, and conventions, much of the official discourse has converted these important instruments of justice into abstract papers far removed from those majorities whom they should serve …”
In Monseñor’s homilies, he often reported the names of people who were killed, tortured or disappeared. As much as possible he based his weekly homilies in legal education, seeking answers and recourse for families that were oppressed and searching for lost loved ones.
Romero’s teachings are a priceless inheritance that Salvadorans share with a global community. We honor his memory by putting his teachings and his love for humanity into practice. There is no other way. Monseñor called on us to “train children and youth to analyze the reality of their country. May we prepare them to be agents of transformation … They must be educated for love.” One of Monseñor’s final homilies, is telling about how he might handle solidarity with neighboring Honduras and other countries working toward liberation today:
The statement of the Jesuits of the Province of Central America and the violent reaction of the right make me think of the serious situation and the great responsibility of the Church in that, our sister country. It also makes me reflect on the ways that we respond to the expressions of solidarity that we have received from there … we should pray often for the liberation of the people of Guatemala and enter into solidarity with their struggle.
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