2016-2017 is the Diocesan Year of Oscar Romero.
Who was Archbishop Oscar Romero?
El Salvador in the 1970s was a place divided. Most people lived in extreme poverty, while a small group of very rich families controlled most of the wealth and political power. Violence was regularly used against those who stood up and challenged this inequality.
This was the situation when Oscar became Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977. Originally he was seen as someone who would not rock the boat, but as archbishop he met the ordinary people who would tell him their stories of being threatened and family members who went missing without a trace. Oscar began to speak out. He denounced the killings, torture and the disappearances of community leaders. He demanded justice and set up projects and programmes to support the victims of the violence. He rejected violence wherever he saw it and called for a peaceful solution to the nation’s problems. He became the voice of the voiceless poor, used his sermons to speak out against those in power. His sermons were broadcast over the radio and people could hear the truth about the bad things happening in their country. Oscar was treading a dangerous path and received many, many death threats. The press criticised him and he was harassed by the security forces.
The night before he was killed he urged police and soldiers to go against their orders to kill. Oscar was shot dead at the altar while he was saying Mass at 6.26 pm on March 24th 1980. He gave his life speaking out for the poor, needy and suffering. His actions remain an inspiration to millions across the World who work for justice, peace and reconciliation.
In 2017 we are celebrating the centenary of Blessed Oscar Romero’s birth.
Archbishop Romero was one of one of the most remarkable figures of the 20th Century, who deserves to be remembered alongside the likes of Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa as a peacemaker who sacrificed his life standing up to injustice. The world today desperately needs more figures like Romero – leaders with the courage, faith and love to stand up for the poor against injustice.
Romero is, in particular, an inspirational figure to hundreds of millions of Catholics around the world. He didn’t simply talk about the need to love your neighbour, but courageously named the injustices that plagued his country. He reminded us that Christ is found in people living in poverty, and that we cannot ignore the suffering of our brothers and sisters in need.
We can all celebrate Romero’s legacy by following his example: by challenging injustice wherever we see it and by refusing to stay silent about the issues that keep people in poverty.
A Saint in the making?
Beatification, or declaring a person “blessed”, is the first step to full sainthood. In February 2015 the Pope announced that Romero died as a martyr, opening the path to his beatification. Blessed Oscar Romero was beatified in El Salvador on 23 May 2015. In a papal letter, Pope Francis described Blessed Oscar Romero as one who “constructed peace with the force of love”. There is also no set date for Romero’s canonisation – the final stage of the process, when he will be declared a saint, but there is a hope that Oscar will be made a saint in this his centenary year.
A Prayer for the Year of Oscar Romero
A Guiding Light