Today is the memory of Blessed Oscar Arnulfo Romero, martyr of charity, assasinated in San Salvador the 24th March 1980
Oscar Romero, archbishop of San Salvador, was a symbol. He was named "San Romero of the Americas", shortly after his assassination; He was killed on 24th March1980, while celebrating mass. His death was demanded by the military in collusion with the crude economic oligarchy of El Salvador.
Many people in Latin America were identifying themselves with the assassinated bishop. He was a friend of the poor, who had resisted military and economic power. Romero spoke out loud against the murders committed by the army and paramilitaries, and he never approved the Marxist guerrillas. It was the point of reference for the poor people of El Salvador, trapped in the civil war: "There is a lot of violence, a lot of hate, a lot of selfishness", he once preached. "Everyone believes he has the truth while blaming the other part”.
He sought peace in dialogue. But he also knew how to be strong and straight, like the time when he "ordered" soldiers not to kill, going against the military hierarchies. His presence did not allow the right to justify itself through to anticommunism and religious reasoning. After his death, Romero’s profile grew, shedding light on the dramatic situation in San Salvador. Romero was killed like a martyr: he had not left the country to save his own life, as he had been advice. He was venerated by the poor; he was a revolutionary hero for the left, and a major concern for the right. In the Latin American Church there were bishops ostracising his beatification, as they feared the canonisation of the theology of freedom. Very few bishops fought in the opposite direction.
Romero was surrounded by contrast and fog: better to let him be forgotten – that was the common thinking. Detailing his story had a vary important function. The historian Roberto Morozzo did it through a brave book “Primero Dios. Life of Oscar Romero” by framing his profile in the complex picture of San Salvador and the Church. The book received great appreciation in Central America, as expressed in the lively debates during his beatification in May 2005. Benedict XVI himself recognised it during hi trip in Brazil. John Paul II was uncertain about Romero, as he did not appreciate the division among the bishops in San Salvador (almost all of them were against the archbishop); He feared political exploitations. However, He respected the martyrdom. In 2000 during the celebration of the memory of the martyrs of the 20th century, when I objected Romero not being mentioned, he replied: “They say he is a symbol of the left”. Eventually, he included him in the memory as the “unforgettable archbishop of San Salvador”.
The Cardinal Bergoglio sensed the depth of this martyr, closed to his retirement he confessed to someone from San Salvador: “If I was Pope, Romero would be saint”. Surprisingly this has happened and Francesco proclaimed Romero blessed in a reconciled setting, with its roots in a thorough historical process and in martyrdom. Romero is the first recognised martyr of the many killed during the terrible years of violence in Latin America.