Thursday, August 28, 2014

Remembering Archbishop Oscar Romero and his Murderers

Pope Francis has made it clear that he intends to beatify Archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero. The younger ones among us will not remember the troubles in El Salvador, where President Reagan supported the government and its death squads. But I remember El Salvador and the priest who said this just before he was murdered:

“I want to make a special appeal to soldiers, national guardsmen, and policemen: each of you is one of us,” he said. “The peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters. When you hear a man telling you to kill, remember God’s words, ‘thou shalt not kill.’ No soldier is obliged to obey a law contrary to the law of God. In the name of God, in the name of our tormented people, I beseech you, I implore you; in the name of God I command you to stop the repression.”

These words could equally apply to the forces of repression that recently attacked the people of Ferguson, Missouri.

In announcing that the beatification of Romero is no longer blocked, Francis also mentioned Rutilio Grande as a candidate for Sainthood. Romero was a friend to Grande, another Salvadoran priest, who was murdered by the US-supported government. It was the death of Grande that convinced Romero to stand up against the Salvadoran government, and it was, of course, that action that led to Romero's own assassination.

By moving forward with the beatification of one or both of these men, Francis continues to signal his disapproval of the actions of the US in central America. In July, he called for an end to 'racist and xenophobic' policies toward children who emigrate to escape privation and violence.

Conservative Catholics have begun to chafe at Francis's advocacy for the poor and powerless. No doubt their opposition will grow if and when he beatifies Romero and Rutillo Grande. This opposition is unlikely to deter him, however. Christopher Dickey has written a powerful piece for the Daily Beast in which he he gives a first person account of how the government (one assumes) fired on the crowd that attended Romero's funeral, killing at least 35 people.  Dickey concludes his piece by saying,

Some day in the not too distant future, Romero will be beatified. And then, if Pope Francis is still with us, we may well see the leftist saints go marching in.

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