On 24th March, 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero went to the Divine Providence Hospital in San Salvador to celebrate Mass. As he finished his homily, inviting his congregation to prayer, a shot rang out through the church, and Romero slumped to the ground, a bullet in his heart. He died soon after.
“Romero was a remarkable figure, not just for the tragic circumstances of his martyrdom, but also for the depth of his teaching,” says Fr Ashley Beck, author of the newly revised CTS booklet on Romero. “The essence of his teaching can be seen in the words of his final Sunday Homily, given the day before his death:
“I have been trying during these Sundays of Lent to uncover in divine revelation, in the word read here at Mass, God’s programme to save peoples and individuals. Today, where history offers our people various proposals, we can say with assurance: the programme that better reﬂects God’s programme will prevail. And this is the Church’s mission, and so, in the light of God’s word revealing God’s plan for the happiness of peoples, we have the duty of also pointing out the realities, of seeing how God’s plan is reﬂected among us or despised among us. Let no one take it ill that in the light of God’s words read in our Mass we illuminate social, political and economic realities. If we did not, this would not be our own Christianity. It is thus that Christ willed to become incarnate, so that the light that he brings from the Father may become the life of people and of nations. I know that many are scandalised at what I say and charge that it forsakes the preaching of the gospel to meddle in politics. I do not accept that accusation. No, I strive that we may not just have on paper and study in theory all that Vatican Council II and the meetings at Medellín and Puebla have tried to further in us, but that we may live it and interpret it in this conflict-ridden reality, preaching the gospel as it should be preached for our people. I ask the Lord during the week, while I gather the people’s cries and the sorrow stemming from so much crime, the ignominy of so much violence, to give me the fitting word to console, to denounce, to call to repentance. And though I continue to be a voice that cries in the desert, I know that the Church is making the effort to fulfill its mission.””
For Romero, continues Fr Beck, “campaigning for social justice and denouncing injustice were part of the Church’s witness”. He had a great love for his people, who were suffering under violence and oppression, and he saw it as his duty to stand up to these injustices happening around him. This was the essence of his ministry and teaching, and the reason why this humble, holy and courageous man has become an inspiration to so many millions of people.
Oscar Romero is to be beatified on Saturday 23rd May, and some 300,000 people are expected to attend the Mass in Salvador del Mundo Square in El Salvador.
To find out more about Oscar Romero, his life and teachings, you can buy the newly revised booklet Oscar Romero: Martyr for Faith from CTS for £2.50. Read a preview below: