Up to 200,000 people attended celebrations to commemorate the life and work of Oscar Romero, former archbishop of San Salvador, who received beatification on 23 May.

An outspoken critic of the military regime that beset El Salvador in 1980, Romero was martyred on 24 March, 1980 while offering Mass. To this day, he remains a symbol of hope and justice in a region that is still coming to terms with its brutal past.

Initially regarded as a conservative choice, Romero became an outspoken critic of the mass human rights violations that beset El Salvador in 1980. Following the murder of his close friend Father Rutilio Grande, Romero called for an end to all political violence, condemning the notorious right-wing ‘death squads’ that plagued the country.

In his weekly sermons, broadcasted across El Salvador, Romero listed all known disappearances, tortures and murders often at risk to himself.

In the aftermath of Grande’s death, Romero said: ‘If they killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path.’

Romero’s beatification represents a new and important chapter in El Salvador’s history, and a chance to highlight ongoing injustices.

Berta Aguirre, Director of Christian Aid partner PROCARES, told us: ‘Romero’s beatification means a lot for this country and for the victims [of the Civil War]. It highlights the terrible situation of repression and injustice that many of us have lived with for years.

Romero was a man of faith. His only sin was to preach the Gospel. As a great Jesuit once said: “With Romero, Jesus passed through El Salvador.”’

Many of the communities we work with were directly impacted by the war, and continue to suffer. Forced to flee to neighbouring countries until the Peace Accords of 1992, many returned to poor quality land which they struggled to live off. PROCARES, has assisted these communities to make a living through market initiatives such as shrimp farming. They transported members of these communities to the beatification celebrations in San Salvador.

David Wiggs

Author: David Wiggs

I am the webmaster for Purley United Reformed Church and have been involved with the church since my late teens. I work in Croydon and live in Caterham.

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