Oscar Romero
El Salvador
Life in El Salvador in the 1970s
• The country was ruled by just a few
wealthy and powerful families who used
the army to suppress the rest of the
population.
• Life was grim for the peasants – hunger,
poverty, lack of education.
• Hundreds of people were murdered,
tortured or disappeared every month.
Oscar Romero
• Born in 1917 in El Salvador.
• In 1930 he declared his vocation to become a
priest.
• Ordained a priest in 1942 in Rome and
returned to become a parish priest in 1944.
• Made archbishop of San Salvador in 1977 –
the leader of the Catholic Church in El
Salvador.
• He was aware of the oppression, but did not
think it was the church’s job to become
involved in politics.
• A few weeks after Romero was
appointed as archbishop, his friend and
a priest, Father Rutilio Grande, was
murdered.
• His crime?
• Living alongside landless peasants in
poverty, and speaking out on their
behalf.
• Romero immediately reacted against the
corrupt rulers of the country, speaking
out against them and the injustices of
the poor in his country.
Romero's Campaign
• Thousands came to his sermons.
• They were broadcast every Sunday on
the radio.
• He was regarded as
the spokesperson for
truth and justice for
the people of El
Salvador.
• He preached openly
against the
government.
• He said a life motivated by greed was
spiritually empty.
• He taught that violence could be overcome by
Christian love.
• He called upon the Church to act on
behalf of the poverty stricken peasants.
“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” (1979)
• But this angered some members of the
El Salvador church who even wrote to
the Pope complaining about him, saying
he was causing political unrest.
He tried to gain support from outside El Salvador
• In 1979 he visited the Pope with evidence of
the injustices in the country. He was told to
have courage.
• He wrote to the United States President
Carter:
"You say that you are Christian. If you are
really Christian, please stop sending military
aid to the military here, because they use it
only to kill my people."
• But he was becoming too much of a threat to
the El Salvador government.
On March 23rd 1980, Archbishop Romero made the following
appeal to the men of the armed forces:
• "Brothers, you came from our own
people. You are killing your own
brothers. … It is high time you obeyed
your consciences rather than sinful
orders. The church cannot remain silent
before such an abomination. ... In the
name of God, in the name of this
suffering people whose cry rises to
heaven more loudly each day, I implore
you, I beg you, I order you: stop the
repression.”
March 24th 1980
• Romero was shot dead the following day
while celebrating Mass in the chapel of
the hospital where he lived.
• His last words were, “May God have
mercy on the assassin.”
Romero’s Funeral
• His funeral was attended by more than
250,000 mourners from across the
world.
• Even this turned to violence as soldiers
began shooting into the crowd,
the resulting panic killing
40 people.
Several months before his death, Romero
had said words that later would be some
of his most famous:
"I do not believe in death without
resurrection. If they kill me, I will be
resurrected in the hearts of the
Salvadoran people."
“Let my blood be a seed of freedom, and a
sign that hope will soon be a reality.”
Legacy
For the people of El Salvador, Romero was a
hero, a Christian who was prepared to speak
out against a corrupt government and challenge
human rights abuses.
Even though he knew that his life was in danger
he did not stop defending the oppressed and
exploited people of El Salvador.