Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Confrontation Monday, Part I

This month marks the 26th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated by US-trained Salvadoran soldiers after preaching against the repression of the US-backed Salvadoran government against the poor.

Father Romero began his career as a politically cautious priest who staunchly defended the status quo, which is why the ruling families and military of El Salvador were so jubilant when the Vatican, at their bidding, appointed him as the Archbishop of El Salvador. “As far as right-wing forces were concerned, Romero was, from every point of view, the ideal candidate.” He had close friends among the oligarchy, that is, those few families who owned all of the nation’s wealth, a clearly conservative outlook, and a penchant for conciliation--he loved to keep the peace, and they knew it.

But he was converted, radicalized, you might say, when his dear friend and fellow priest, Jesuit Fr. Rutilio Grande, and two of his companions, a boy and an old man, were killed on their way to celebrate mass. Romero hurried to the town of Aguilares to receive their bodies. It was the first time of many that he would receive the bodies of the martyrs in the faith. “It was my lot to go on claiming dead bodies,” he said later. “These days I have to walk the roads gathering up dead friends, listening to widows and orphans, and trying to spread hope.”

Over the next, and last, three years of his life, he became a staunch advocate for the poor, and lashed out “with unequalled ferocity” against the oppression and repression of the poor and powerless (from Voice of the Voiceless).

Dr. Jorge Lara-Braud, in an article in Sojourners magazine, tells about his last conversation with him:

There was a full moon. A little breeze gave some relief to the heat of the day’s work. We were coming back exhausted from a day full of visits to the communities. We were headed back to San Salvador. Barraza was driving, and I was sitting in back with Monseñor Romero. I was leaving the country the next day. This was the last time I would see him, and perhaps that’s why I dared to ask him:

"Monseñor, I’ve heard many people asking you to take care of yourself. Have the threats increased...?"

"Yes, they have. Every day there are more, and I take them very seriously...."

He was quiet for a few moments. I felt a kind of air of nostalgia come over him. He leaned his head back, half-closed his eyes and said to me:

"I’ll tell you the truth, Doctor, I don’t want to die. At least not now. I’ve never had so much love for life! And honestly, I don’t think I was meant to be a martyr. I don’t feel that calling. Of course, if that’s what God asks of me, then there’s nothing I can do. I only ask that the circumstances of my death not leave any doubt as to what my true vocation is: to serve God and to serve the people. But I don’t want to die now. I want a little more time...."

In spite of his love for life, indeed, because of his love for life, he continued to lash out against the oppressive military regime. In his sermon on Sunday, March 23, 1980, Father Romero called upon the troops and the national guardsmen to obey the law of God and to therefore not obey the orders of their officers who might instruct them to kill their brothers and sisters. In the name of God, then, and in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise daily more loudly to heaven, I plead with you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: put an end to this repression!

He was gunned down the very next day while saying mass.

Oscar Romero. Broken for the love of the Salvadoran people.

by Pastor Cindy, more to come...


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