Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 1, 2002
Romero lives on in Salvadorans
Local Salvadorans will not forget courage of slain archbishop
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
He may not be a saint yet, but Salvadorans treat him as such.
Twenty-two years after his assassination, Archbishop Oscar Romero remains a sign of hope for local Salvadorans.
At a Mass commemorating his assassination, they referred to the slain archbishop as a saint and a martyr whose sacrifice is comparable only to Jesus.
More than 100 people gathered at Sacred Heart Church for the commemorative Mass, which included reflections on Romero's life and legacy as well as music and poems in his honour. Portraits of the archbishop and other martyrs were processed to the altar and left there for the duration of the event. Oblate Father James Holland lit a candle in front of the portraits as the Mass began.
Romero, formerly a conservative bishop, became a champion of human rights and social justice in the late 1970s after eight of his closest advisers, including his secretary, were assassinated by the Salvadoran military.
From then on his actions and words in defence of the poor and against power became ever more explicit. Crowds began flocking to his Masses. In a short time, Romero had become an authority listened to and loved by his people. In his last homily he called on members of the army to refuse to obey orders to shoot innocent people.
He was celebrating Mass March 24, 1980 when he was shot to death by a right-wing death squad. His beatification process is currently underway in Rome.
Romero may have been Salvadoran but he belongs to the world, WCR columnist Hank Zyp told the congregation. "He belongs to all of us," he said. "His vision of the world and his analysis of the daily reality in light of the Gospel are applicable universally and equally valid (throughout the world.)."
Speaker Maria de los Angeles Rivera compared Romero to Jesus. "Despite the obstacles, he defended his sheep," she said. "Like Jesus, he gave his life for his people. We must follow in his footsteps. We must continue his struggle for peace and justice in the world."
Like Zyp, Holland, the Sacred Heart pastor, said Romero is not just a Salvadoran saint but a universal saint. "He is for all of us, just like Jesus Christ is for all of us," he said. "Like him, we must stand for the poor and the rejected even in this country. That's a call from God. It's a call from Romero as well."
Raul Rivera, coordinator of the Salvadoran Base Christian Communities in Edmonton, said the image of the slain archbishop is deeply ingrained in the memory of the Salvadoran people around the world.
"That's why we continue to commemorate (the anniversary of his death) after all these years," he said. "We believe in him. For us he is a saint. We call him St. (Oscar) Romero of the Americas."
Gladys Molina said Romero made a "big impact" on the lives of millions in El Salvador and around the world. "His words remain alive and are a source of inspiration for all of us," the woman said. "His spirit remains alive and so is his dream of justice and peace for all."
Two young people read poems in Romero's honour, with one proclaiming, "No one will silence your last homily, monsignor."
"Oscar Romero is a symbol of the struggle for social justice around the world," commented Eduardo Carson, who served as translator at the Mass. "His message is still alive because it's God's message."