Skip to main content

Martyred priest who was "critical" of Church for enjoying privileges and power canonized as saint by Pope

The chapel in San Salvadar, where Romero was murdered
By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
On Sunday, October 14, Pope Francis canonized seven women and men as saints of the Catholic Church. Each of these have proved outstanding in holiness and contributed in significant ways to help make our world a better place.
One new Saint, who will truly be celebrated by several, particularly by the poor and oppressed, is Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. Even in his lifetime, several of his own revered Romero. On March 24, 1980, he was brutally assassinated whilst celebrating the Eucharist in San Salvador. He was an outspoken critic of his Government, the military and of the other right wing elements of his country, for their continued oppression and exploitation of the poor.
There has never been any doubt about who was responsible for his death. In his martyrdom, he became an immediate ‘Saint’ for millions. As he receives the official ‘halo’ from the Catholic Church, Romero is today remembered in many ways!
Romero was primarily a pastor. A true shepherd, who in the words of Pope Francis “smelled of the sheep”, He was there in the midst of his people, accompanying them, sharing their struggles. He writes in his diary, “Between the powerful and the wealthy, and the poor and vulnerable, who should a pastor side with? I have no doubts. A pastor should stay with his people.” He practiced what he preached. Priesthood today is challenged as never before; the role of the Bishops is questioned; some have abdicated their role and responsibility as pastors.
As a young priest and in his early years as Bishop, Romero was known for being a ‘conservative’; he was afraid to rock the boat and preferred to maintain the ‘status quo’. He never wanted to be on the wrong side of the powerful of El Salvador. Jesuit Fr Rutilio Grande, was however a good friend of Romero. Grande left no stone unturned to highlight the plight of the poor and the oppressed and to make their struggles his own. Unlike Romero, Grande did not hesitate to take up cudgels against the powerful of his land.
On 12 March 1977, Grande was killed by the regime. Just three weeks earlier, Romero was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador. Grande’s death came as a terrible shock to Romero. Presiding over the funeral Mass, Romero said, “The government should not consider a priest who takes a stand for social justice as a politician or a subversive element when he is fulfilling his mission in the politics of the common good.”
He also said openly and emphatically, “Anyone who attacks one of my priests, attacks me. If they killed Rutilio for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path”. The death of his dear friend was a turning point in the life of Romero. From that day onwards, he wholeheartedly worked for the rights of the poor, until his own murder, three years later.
Romero was essentially a prophet. He was not afraid to denounce the unjust and dehumanizing systems of his country. His sermons, demanding social justice for poor people and excoriating politicians and military leaders, reached hundreds of thousands of people via radio broadcasts. On 23 March 1980, the day before he was killed Archbishop Romero delivered a now-famous homily ordering soldiers to stop killing their own fellow citizens. “It is time to regain your conscience. In the name of God and the name of the suffering people, I implore you, I beg you, I order you, stop the repression!”
Archbishop Romero was beatified in San Salvador, on May 23, 2015 in the midst of hundreds of thousands from his native land. In a message on the day of his beatification, Pope Francis said, "The beatification ... is a cause of great joy for Salvadorans and for those of us who rejoice at the example of the greatest children of the church. Monsignor Romero, who built peace from the strength of love, gave testimony of the faith with his life, committed to the very end.”
So much of Romero -- his courage, his language, his praxis and passion for the poor -- are very visible in the words and deeds of Pope Francis, and deeply reflected in 'Gaudete et Exsultate,' with its central focus on the beatitudes.
The canonization of Romero comes as a fresh impetus, for priests and bishops, to recommit themselves to the pastoral and prophetic dimensions of their priesthood. Sadly, a large number of the clergy are identified today with the powerful and the privileged; ensconced in their comfort zones; afraid to take sides with the poor and the oppressed. Romero reminds us:
“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. A preaching that does not point out sin is not the preaching of the gospel. A preaching that makes sinners feel good, so that they are secured in their sinful state, betrays the gospel's call”.
We desperately need to emulate Romero today. Untruth and injustice, divisiveness and discrimination are rampant everywhere. Several political, business and even so-called ‘religious’ leaders use hate, exclusivism and xenophobia to nurture their lust for power and greed for wealth. Truth and Justice in several countries of the world are disregarded. Hardly any attention is paid to the victims of crime and violence – particularly the institutionalized ones.
The poor continue to be the victims of unjust structures everywhere. Romero lived his vocation to the fullest, “You have heard in Christ’s Gospel that one must not love oneself so much as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us… whoever out of love for Christ gives themselves to the service of others will live”.
Oscar Romero is truly a saint for our times! Let us celebrate him! Let us follow his example!
---
*Indian human rights activist. Contact: cedricprakash@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

Whistle-blowing IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife suspects foul play after truck hits her car

By Nachiketa Desai*
Paranoia has seized Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt, after the car she was driving was rammed in broad day light. According to Shweta Bhatt, it was beacon light-flashing truck without registration number plate. The incident took place on January 7, just a day ahead of the Gujarat High Court was scheduled to take up the bail application of Sanjiv Bhatt, arrested last year for "involvement" in a 23-year-old case.

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

99% MGNREGA funds "exhausted", Govt of India makes no additional sanctions: Study

Counterview Desk
A letter, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and prepared by senior activists led by Aruna Roy on behalf of the Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), and signed, among others, by 80 members of Parliament, has regretted that, despite repeated public statements by his government promising employment and job creation that will boost the country’s growth, the country’s only employment guarantee programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), “is being systematically undermined.”

Morari Bapu, who has installed new statues of Ram, Laxman, Hanuman without weapons

By Sandeep Pandey*
A saint is one who can give some inner peace by his/her voice. This will happen only when s(he) will talk about love and harmony. Morari Bapu is one saint who has been conveying the message of love, peace, harmony, fraternity, etc. Today when a number of saffron clad figures with aggressive posture, spewing venom, fanning hatred to polarise voters are at the forefront of politics of Hindutva it is a relief to see Morari Bapu in a different mould.

Nuclear reactors sought from French giant "not safe": Letter to Modi on Jaitapur project

Counterview Desk
Amidst reports that the French nuclear giant EDF has submitted a “techno-commercial offer” for the world’s largest nuclear power park proposed in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur nuclear power park in Jaitapur on the Maharashtra coast, Dr EAS Sarma, India’s former Union Secretary in the Minister of Power, and an eminent voice in the civil society, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also heads Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),  protesting the move.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Kaiga NPP expansion: Karnataka to get just 400 MW, but lose thick forest, fresh water

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to the chairman and members of the Atomic energy Commission (AEC) on the issue of Kaiga nuclear power plant (NPP) expansion plan in Karnataka, Shankar Sharma, well-known power policy analyst, has argued that that in case of expansion, the site will face “exponential increase in radiation emission risks”, underlining, “Nuclear safety experts identify such a scenario as enhanced risk for NPPs with multiple reactors and shared technical facilities."
Sharma says the questions that also be asked whether Karnataka should lose more than 54 hectares of thick forests and about 152,304 cubic meters of fresh water per day from Kali river for a meager benefit of 400 MW from the Kaiga NPP, for which “there are many benign alternative options available for the state at much lower overall costs to the state.”
Text of the letter: This has reference to the public hearing under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Rule 2006 of Ministry of Environment, Fore…

Uttarakhand High Court: Biodiversity boards can impose fees on Ramdev's Divya Pharmacy

By Mridhu Tandon
In a significant decision, the Uttarakhand High Court on December 21, 2018 has dismissed the writ petition filed by Divya Pharmacy founded by Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishnan, challenging the demand of the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) imposing fees under the provisions of the Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing (FEBS).

Modi becoming Prime Minister now appears to be an "accident" to the people of India

By Sandeep Pandey*
Anupam Kher's film 'Accidental Prime Minister' has targeted Dr Manmohan Singh who served for two terms and may be again acceptable for the job if his party regains power. But his tormentor Narendra Modi seems to be out of breath even before his first term is over. Disillusionment with him is so widespread and deep that people of India may not bear with him for another term. As the general elections approach again the difference between the two needs to be examined.

Story of a foot soldier of Gujarat riots coming from a vulnerable community, Chharas

By Rajiv Shah
He is one of the more prominent "foot soldiers" of the 2002 Gujarat riots. Suresh Jadeja, alias Langdo, alias Richard, is indeed a well-known name in the Naroda Patiya massacre case, in which 97 persons were killed on February 28, 2002, the first day of the riots that shook the nation. Ordinarily, such a person should have been subjected to sociological scrutiny. What have here is a keen journalistic account, with clear political-ideological overtone.