Yesterday in Rome, Pope Francis canonized several saints including Oscar Romero, the late Archbishop of San Salvador who was assassinated as he stood at the altar on March 24, 1980. He is a witness to the whole Church of commitment to standing up for justice for those on the margins as an essential aspect of living the way of Jesus. He was initially seen as a conservative supporter of the status quo, but he allowed God to open his heart to the plight of poor people in El Salvador who were being brutalized by the regime in power. In his daily reflection yesterday, the Franciscan priest and spiritual leader Richard Rohr shared the following quotes from the last days of Oscar Romero:
In his homily on March 23, 1980, the day before he was murdered, Romero addressed the Salvadoran military directly:
Brothers, we are part of the same people. You are killing your own brother and sister peasants and when you are faced with an order to kill given by a man, the law of God must prevail; the law that says: Thou shalt not kill. No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. And it is time that you recover your consciences. . . . In the name of God, then, and in the name of this suffering people whose laments rise up to heaven each day more tumultuously, I plead with you, I pray you, I order you, in the name of God: Stop the repression!
The next day, following his sermon, a U.S.-supported government hit squad shot him through his heart as he stood at the altar.
Only a few weeks earlier, Romero had said:
I have often been threatened with death. I must tell you, as a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection. If I am killed, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people. I say so without boasting, with the greatest humility. . . . A bishop will die, but God’s church, which is the people, will never perish.
The video clips below provide more information about the life and witness of Oscar Romero. The first clip is a report focused on his canonization as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. The second in the trailer for the 1989 movie Romero starring Raul Julia. It is a powerful presentation of the events that transformed Oscar Romero’s life and that led him to give his life in faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I recommend this movie with the disclaimer that it is not suitable for children because of the vivid depictions of the evil and violence against which Oscar Romero stood. Thirty eight years after his enemies thought they rid the world of Oscar Romero, his spirit and witness live on and continue to inspire people all over the world.