photo by: http://www.marypages.com/RomeroEng.htm
The powerful biography of the Latino Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez who spent his life helping the poor. People so poor that children died because their parents could not afford penicillin; people who were paid less than legal minimum wage; people who had been savagely beaten for “insolence” after they asked for long overdue pay.
Romero began using resources of the diocese-and his own personal resources to help the poor, but he knew that simple charity was not enough.
He said, “The world of the poor teaches us that liberation will arrive only when the poor are not simply on the receiving end of handouts from government, but when they themselves are the masters and protagonists of their own struggle for liberation.”
After the brutal murder of two campesinos – one being his friend and trusted aide – Romero deeply saddened demanded the President look into it. The government’s failure to offer more than lip service reinforced the archbishop’s growing conviction that the right-wing government was in collusion with the aristocrats who killed for personal gain. He then notified the president that representatives of the archdiocese would no longer appear with government leaders at public ceremonies.
Archbishop Romero presented the Pope with seven detailed reports of institutionalized murder, torture and kidnapping throughout El Salvador. He also wrote President Jimmy Carter, appealing to him as a fellow Christian, to stop sending military aid to the Salvadoran government. His letter went unheeded. President Carter finally suspended aid in 1980, after the murders of four churchwomen, but President Reagan resumed and greatly increased aid to the Salvadoran government. In all, the U.S. aid averaged $1.5 million/day for 12 years.
There was so much persecution that in 1979 four priests were assassinated, along with many hundreds of catechists and delegates of the Word. The peasant toll exceeded 3,000/month.
In all, at least 75-80,000 Salvadorans would be slaughtered, 300,000 would disappear and never be seen again; a million would flee their homeland and an additional million would become homeless fugitives, constantly fleeing the military and police. All of this occurred in a nation of only 5.5 million people.
Romero had nothing left to offer his people but faith and hope. On March 23, 1980 Romero used his nationally broadcast sermons to speak directly to the soldiers and policemen:
“Brothers, you are from the same people; you kill your fellow peasants…No soldier is obliged to obey an order that is contrary to the will of God…In the name of God, in the name of suffering people, I ask you-I command you in the name of Jesus: stop the repression!”
The following evening while performing a funeral mass, Archbishop Romero was shot to death by a paid assassin. Although, only moments before he was shot, he reminded the mourners of the parable of wheat:
“Those who surrender to the service of the poor through the love of Christ will live like grain of wheat that dies…The harvest comes because of the grain that dies…We know that every effort to improve society, above all when society is so full of injustice and sin is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us.”
An estimated 500,000 people attended his funeral when small bombs were hurled into the ground and 40 mourners died while hundreds were seriously wounded.
Salvadorans rally in honor of Archbishop Oscar Romero in the capital on the 30th anniversary of his assassin and when El Savador asks forgiveness in 2010 for his slaying (Jose Cabezas / AFP/Getty Images) (to read more of what happened on 30th anniversary http://articles.latimes.com/2010/mar/24/world/la-fg-salvador-romero25-2010mar25).
Soon after his death El Salvador was plunged into a full blown civil war that would last 12 years.
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