My dear people of St. Mary’s:
Recently I have written to you about the upcoming canonization of Pope Blessed Paul VI. At the same time, Pope Francis also announced the canonization of Blessed Oscar Romero. Blessed Oscar was the Archbishop of San Salvador, in the country of El Salvador, who was assassinated while celebrating Mass in 1980.
Born in 1917 in El Salvador, Blessed Oscar was one of eight children born to a simple, rural family. He entered the seminary at the age of thirteen (not unusual at the time) and was eventually sent to finish his studies at the Gregorian University in Rome, where he received his degree in theology cum laude. He was ordained a priest on April 4, 1942, as the Second World War raged throughout Europe. He then stayed in Italy to obtain his doctorate in theology. In 1943 he returned to El Salvador to serve as a parish priest, and he was very active in pastoral ministry for over twenty years. He also served as the rector of the national seminary in San Salvador.
In 1966, he was chosen to be Secretary of the Bishops Conference for the country of El Salvador, and in 1970 he was appointed an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of San Salvador. In 1974, he was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Santiago de Maria, which is located in a poor, rural area. In 1977, Pope Paul VI appointed him to be the Archbishop of San Salvador.
In 1979 due to political problems in the county far too complex to discuss here, the “Revolutionary Government Junta” came to power as a military oligarchy during the Salvadoran Civil War. Throughout the conflict, Archbishop Romero courageously preached the Gospel, defended the rights of the innocent, and spoke out against lawless violence and terror.
On March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass in the chapel of the Hospital de la Divina Providencia (Divine Providence Hospital), a car pulled up in front of the building, a gunman emerged and fired one or two shots from the door of the chapel, striking the Archbishop through the heart as he was standing at the altar. He died instantly.
At Romero’s funeral, Ernesto Cardinal Corripio y Ahumada, the personal delegate of Pope John Paul II, spoke of Romero as a “beloved, peacemaking man of God,” and stated that “his blood will give fruit to brotherhood, love and peace.” More than 250,000 people attended Archbishop Romero’s funeral. Sadly, the funeral itself was interrupted by smoke bombs launched into the crowds and indiscriminate rifle shots which killed at least thirty, and as many as fifty, mourners. To this day, no one has ever been prosecuted for the assassination and the gunman has never been identified. However, in 1993 the United Nations identified Major Roberto D’Aubuisson as having ordered the killing.
Archbishop Romero was beatified as a martyr on May 23, 2015, in San Salvador. He will be canonized by Pope Francis in Rome later this year.