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

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.

"Misleading" satellite images being shared on Balakot surgical strike on Jaish camp

By Dr Vinay Kate*
With every passing day more questions are being raised about the surgical strike India did in Balakot as a response to Pulwama attacks. So far the Indian media has claimed mass casulaty of 300+ terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammad in this surgical strike, but there is hardly any report from foreign media about the same.

Extreme repression, corporate loot, cultural genocide "characterise" India's tribal belt

Counterview Desk
As Lok Sabha polls approach, there is considerable ferment in one section of the population -- India's Adivasis, forming about 8.6 per cent of India's population. Things became particularly critical following the February 14, 2019 Supreme Court order, allegedly seeking to evict lakhs of tribals from their forest lands.

Industry in India "barely growing", export growth 0%, whither moral anchors?

Counterview Desk
In a sharp critique of the Modi government, the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), one of world renowned economist Prof Kaushik Basu, who is Professor of Economics and Carl Marks Professor of International Studies at Cornell University, has told students at the IIM-A’s 54th Annual Convocation on March 16, 2019 that they have a “special responsibility” on their shoulders, “the responsibility to reject narrow sectarianism, uphold scientific thinking, openness to new ideas, and freedom of speech.”

Congress would win just 9 of 26 Lok Sabha seats: Gujarat Assembly segment-wise analysis

By Rajiv Shah
Even as the Congress plans its first working committee meet in Gujarat on February 28 after an almost 58 year gap, there is reason to wonder what is in store for India’s grand old party in a state which has been long been a BJP bastion – in fact ever since mid-1990s. Ahead of the then assembly polls in late 2012, talking with me, a senior Gujarat Congress leader, currently Rajya Sabha MP, frankly said he saw no reason why Congress would win.

Gujarat model? Industrial effluents "invade" borewells, discharge coloured water in farms

By Rajiv Shah
In a major embarrassment for Gujarat model, of the 21 samples taken by officials of the state government's environmental watchdog Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) in two villages of Vadodara district and analyzed by its laboratory in Gandhinagar, the state capital, to find out pollution level in groundwater, 16 were assessed as highly contaminated – these were, in fact, found to be discharging reddish, brownish, reddish, or yellowish water.

Financial inclusion? Not micro-loans; India's poor "need" investment in health, education

By Moin Qazi*
India has grown into a global powerhouse. Its economy is soaring but the picture on the ground is still quite arid. The green shoots that you see are only a patch of its landscape. Most Indians are hapless victims of inequity. India is one country where intense poverty abounds in the shadow of immense wealth.

"Pro-corporate" Supreme Court order on FRA would further marginalize Adivasis

By VS Roy David, JP Raju*
For millions of Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers February 13, 2019 will go down in history as the day of apocalypse. This is like the proverbial Black Friday where millions of most marginalized people of India were ordered by malicious anti-people draconian Supreme Court order depriving them the life and livelihood by evicting them from their habitats.

India, Pakistan told to eliminate nuclear weapons: N-war "would kill" 2 billion

Counterview Desk
The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), a non-partisan federation of national medical organizations in 64 countries, representing tens of thousands of doctors, medical students, other health workers, and concerned citizens, claiming to share the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation, has warned that “an unprecedented global catastrophe” awaits the globe against the backdrop of warmongering in India and Pakistan.

Women, business, law: India scores worst among all BRICS, several African nations

By Rajiv Shah
A new World Bank report ranks India 125th in its Women, Business and the Law (WBL) index among 187 economies it seeks to analyse across the globe. The report's main aim claims to be to "gain new insight into how women’s employment and entrepreneurship choices are affected by legal gender discrimination. On a scale of 100, India's score is 71.25, worse than the global average of 74.71.