Monday, March 24, 2014

Oscar Romero: Bishop, Martyr

Oscar Romero (15 August 1917 – 24 March 1980) was born in San Miguel, El Salvador.  His public school education at a government school only lasted three years.  He continued his education with a private tutor, while serving as an apprentice carpenter until he was thirteen, when he entered the minor seminary in San Miguel.  From there he went to the National Seminary in San Salvador and then to the Gregorian University in Rome, where he received his licentienate, and was ordained as presbyter.  He remained in Rome to receive a doctorate, but was recalled to El Salvador before receiving it.   He ended up in prison in Cuba on the way back because of complications relating to Fascist Italy and World War II.
He started his work in Anonoros, and then went to San Miguel, where he promotd apostolic groups and started an Alcoholics Anonymous group.  Later he became secretary to the bishop’s conference and was later named auxiliary Bishop to the Archbishop of El Salvador.  In December 1975 he was named as Bishop of Santa Maria, and then 23 February 1977 was named as Archbishop of El Salvador, a move which dismayed the more “progressive” elements of the Salvadoran Roman Catholic church, who saw him as conservative. 
Life changed for the Archbishop, when his friend Fr. Rutilio Grande was assassinated.  Traditionally here to fore, the church had been seen as an ally and accomplice in the government’s workings, but no longer.  Romero demanded an investigation, and who said, “"When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought, 'If they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path'"
Human rites abuses continued, and Romero even wrote Jimmy Carter asking him not to support the government of El Salvador, advice that Carter ignored, fearful of provoking another Nicaragua.  Because of him humanitarian efforts, he became known on the international stage, and received an honorary doctorate in Belgium.  In his speech he denounced the Salvadoran junta for its persecution of those presbyters who worked for the benefit of the poor.  Eventually he proclaimed on radio and television the name of those presbyters, nuns and lay workers who were persecuted, tortured and even murdered for helping the poor. 
            In addition to helping the poor, and defending the church, Romero made holiness a personal goal.  He apparently hit a soft spot when he called for soldiers who were Christians to stop carrying out government oppression, persecution, and violations of human rights.  Romero was assassinated while elevating the chalice at a mass at the Divina Providencia hospital on 24 March 1980. 
Psalm 31:15-24
Isaiah 2:5-7
Revelation 7:13-17
John 12:23-32

Abba, father, as you called Oscar Romero to help the poor and resist the powerful, raise up in this and every generation prophets to challenge the powerful and to defend those who are defenseless.  This we ask in the name of Yeshua who died to set us free.  Amen. 

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