On the 34th anniversary of Oscar Romero's assassination
"May God have mercy on the assassins." Even the final words Archbishop Oscar Romero spoke as he lay dying on the altar of a small chapel in San Salvador on this day 34 years ago were of mercy, forgiveness, and peace.
Although Romero was not always a supporter of liberation theology in his early priestly career, his time as archbishop of San Salvador gave him a reputation for caring deeply about all people. Standing up against poverty, social injustice, torture, and assassinations of Salvadorans by their government, Archbishop Romero protected the poor civilians during what would become the Salvadoran Civil War (lasting from 1979 until 1992).
During his time speaking out against the violence in his country, Romero gained attention around the world for his actions. He pleaded to U.S. President Jimmy Carter to stop funding the Salvadoran government which was using the funds for military action against civilians. He criticized the attacks and threats on the members of the Catholic Church who helped the poor civilians—which caused some unrest with church leaders who felt betrayed, accusing him of being "politicized" and of seeking popularity.
The threats by the government and betrayals by some church leaders did not slow him down in his actions toward peace. Just moments before he was assassinated during Mass, he finished his final sermon. His message was clear:
“I would like to make a special appeal to the men of the army, and specifically to the ranks of the National Guard, the police and the military. Brothers, you come from our own people. You are killing your own brother peasants when any human order to kill must be subordinate to the law of God which says, "Thou shalt not kill." No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. It is high time you recovered your consciences and obeyed your consciences rather than a sinful order. … In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression.”
Peace and justice for all were what Archbishop Romero wanted. Romero’s words ring true today as the world is still in conflict. The political and military upheavals in Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere affect every corner of the globe. Any loss of life is tragic, whether it be civilians, military personnel, protestors, families.
On this 34th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, let’s work as God’s people to preserve human rights, protect all life, and stop the repression around us.
For more information about Oscar Romero’s life, here are some articles from our collection: