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35 Years Later, Óscar Romero’s Martyrdom Is Recognized

Mural en homenaje a Monseñor Romero hecho por Jamie Morgan, San Francisco. Imagen de Flickr del usuario  Franco Folini (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Mural tributing Monsignor Romero made by Jamie Morgan, San Francisco. Image of Flickr by user Franco Folini (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Monday, March 24, 1980, probably started as a regular day for the San Salvador parishioners attending services at the chapel of Divine Providence Hospital. Violence marred that day, however, and 35 years later it's still remembered as a day of infamy. The prayer's officiate, Monsignor Óscar Arnulfo Romero, was shot and killed during the service. The bullet went straight through his heart. He was 62 years old. 

In February 2015, after a long effort by El Salvadorians, the Catholic Church canonized Romero.

In addition to being a priest, Romero was a well-known human rights advocate. The day before he was killed, he addressed El Salvador's military officers, saying:

Yo quisiera hacer un llamamiento muy especial a los hombres del Ejército, y en concreto a las bases de la Guardia Nacional, de la policía, de los cuarteles: Hermanos, son de nuestro mismo pueblo, matan a sus mismos hermanos campesinos y, ante una orden de matar que dé un hombre, debe de prevalecer la ley de Dios que dice: ‘No matar’. Ningún soldado está obligado a obedecer una orden contra la ley de Dios. Una ley inmoral, nadie tiene que cumplirla.

I want to make a very special appeal to the men in the Army, and in particular to the National Guard, the police force, and the barracks: Brothers, you come from the same people, you kill your fellow peasant-brothers, and when ordered by men to kill another man, God's law must prevail—the one that states: “Thou shalt not kill.” No soldier should obey an order against God's law. An immoral law, no one has to abide by it.

Thirteen years after the murder in 1993, the Commission of the Truth, an entity created to investigate the most serious crimes committed during Salvadoran civil war, concluded that a sniper assassinated Romero. The gunman's name was Marino Samayor Acosta, a corporal of the now-extinct National Guard and a member of the former president's security detachment. Marino Samayor Acosta allegedly received 114 dollars for the murder. On November 6, 2009, then President Mauricio Funes decided to investigate Romero's murder, in compliance with a order from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2000.

On March 24, 1990, ten years after the assassination, the effort to canonize Romero got underway. Almost 25 years later, on February 3, 2015, Pope Francis formally declared Óscar Romero to be a martyr of the Church, murdered by “hatred of the faith.”

Although more than 30 years have passed since his murder, Monsignor Romero is still remembered in various media, such as the website LupaProtestante, which wrote recently:

Esa voz comprometida lo llevó [a Romero] a denunciar a los ricos y poderosos. A exigir la defensa de la vida, las corrupciones a todo nivel, la mentira sistemática y estructurada que encubría desde la tortura hasta las desapariciones y los asesinatos. No rehuía presentar casos concretos en sus homilías y reclamarles a los gobernantes y a las fuerzas armadas respeto por la dignidad humana, la promoción de la paz con justicia y preservar para las futuras generaciones una patria en la que cupieran todos y todas en fraternidad y libertad plena.

That committed voice made him [Romero] complain about the rich and powerful. To demand the defense of life, corruption at all level, the systematic and structured lie that concealed from torture to disappearances and murders. He didn't avoid presenting specific cases during his services and saying rulers and the armed forces have to respect human dignity. He promoted peace with justice and tried to preserve for future generations a homeland where everybody could live in complete fraternity and freedom.

The blog SuperMartyrio, meanwhile, acknowledges former President Funes’ contribution to Romero's canonization.

Hay que empezar reconociendo el bien que ha hecho el Pdte. Funes: el primer presidente en reconocer el valor de Mons. Romero para la sociedad y cultura de El Salvador—ya no se diga ser el primer presidente en reconocer la responsabilidad estatal por su asesinato, y pedir perdón por ella. Sus esfuerzos a favor de la canonización también han sido apreciables.

We have to start by acknowledging President Funes actions: [he was] the first president to acknowledge the value Monsignor Romero has for the society and culture of El Salvador—let alone the first president to acknowledge the state's responsibility for his murder, and ask forgiveness. His efforts in the canonization process have also been considerable.

The website Opiniones impertinentes, meanwhile, considered some of Romero's mistakes:

Romero no lo hizo todo bien. Romero tuvo errores, se comprometió a veces en exceso con la izquierda […]. Durante todo el tiempo contó con el apoyo expreso de Pablo VI, al que visitó dos veces en sus tres años de gobierno, y de Juan Pablo II, que le conoció en Roma en 1979.

Romero didn't do everything right. Romero made mistakes, he sometimes committed too much to the leftists […]. All along he had the clear support of Paul VI, whom he visited twice in his three-year government, and by John Paul Pablo II, who met him in Rome in 1979.

Romero has been a subject of conversation on Twitter, too:

Santiago de María bishop, Rodrigo Orlando Cabrera, made an appeal today in Ciudad Barrios [about 160 kilometers from San Salvador] for Catholics to acknowledge Monsignor Romero's martyrdom.

Monsignor Romero fought against injustice and violence. It's ironic that [President Funes’ political party] the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front only gained a foothold in El Salvador by going against what Romero preached.

It's so sad to see how there are people who express themselves so derogatively about monsignor Romero… I beg God that they change their mentalities some day.

This is where Monsignor Romero used to sleep. Know more about his life. 

Monsignor Romero wasn't heard. The hate of the oligarchy was stronger, and because he was a Catholic priest, he was murdered. This was his martyrdom.

Romero's remains are buried in the crypt of the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Salvador.

Laura Vidal collaborated with this post.

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