Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 19, 2001
Murder of Romero planted a seed
They thought they killed Archbishop Oscar Romero, but they only planted a seed.
Dear Oscar, today the world is preparing to celebrate your life, mourn your untimely death and remember the rich legacy you left us.
You inspire us still as we gather in Seattle, Davos and Quebec City and wherever the powers of this world gather behind closed doors to protect their privileges at the expense of the poor and oppressed.
We remember your words: "What a terrible thing to have lived well off, economically secure, lacking nothing, having everything. To what good?
"But those, who for the love of God, uproot themselves and accompany the poor in their suffering, feeling the pain and abuse as their own, they will secure their lives."
Pope Paul VI must have known, when he appointed you archbishop of San Salvador, that you were not the lackey the dictators, generals and landed gentry thought you might be. If only we had more bishops like you now when the great abyss between rich and poor has widened exponentially and globally.
But you reminded us that "the Church is all of you," and more than the ordained hierarchy and Curia officials.
"What marks the genuine Church," you told us, "is when it proclaims God's wonders to be believed and denounces the sinful structures which imprison, oppress and violate the rights of God and humanity."
And so, we are sorry we did not sufficiently heed your warning: "If you do not become poor and concern yourself with the poverty of others as if they were your family, you will not be able to save society."
We didn't think you were talking to "all of us" when you said: "Violence is criminal, even in those who merely do not do whatever is possible to uncover its origin." You compared our sins of omission to those who point the weapons of death.
On March 24, 1980, a car stopped outside the Chapel of the Divine Providence, a lone gunman stepped out, slowly rested his rifle on the open door, and carefully aimed down the aisle where you had raised the host for the Consecration.
You pronounced the familiar words: "May this body broken and this blood shed for human beings encourage us to give our body and blood up to suffering and pain as Christ did - not for self, but to bring justice and peace to our people."
A shot broke the silence and you, who in the words of Daniel Berrigan, "preferred living blood to tepid wine, and living flesh to malnourishing bread," were killed by our indifference.
Your death was one of the most notorious unsolved crimes of the Cold War. The U.S. promised to bring the assassins to justice.
President Ronald Reagan needed the support of Washington to complete the largest U.S. war effort since Vietnam. Shooting bishops, nuns and priests was counterproductive. Vice President George Bush and his aide Oliver North were dispatched to El Salvador to meet with the Salvadoran high command.
The U.S. investigation came to nothing. The order to murder was conveniently blamed on Major Roberto D'Abuisson.
You would know D'Aubisson did not act alone. Declassified CIA files suggest that Washington also knew more about the killing than it admitted.
Six years and some 50,000 deaths later, others involved in your assassination were captured by a special police unit set up by the Americans. They were killed, Mafia style, for knowing too much.
D'Aubisson died of throat cancer. The details of your murder went to the grave with them. "They thought they buried you, dear Oscar, but all they did was to bury a seed."
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