For many people the assassination of Archbishop Romero on 24th March 1980 is no doubt still in living memory. Forty years have passed since his assassination, but his example and witness continue to inspire and transform lives and faith. He is now recognised as a saint. (Feast day 24th March).
Romero is now remembered as the champion of the poor, an activist against social injustice. He was a major proponent of ‘Liberation Theology’—a branch of Theology that strongly believes God’s ‘preferential option of the poor’, that God will always be on the side of the oppressed. Yet when Romero became the Archbishop of San Salvador, he was considered a ‘conservative’ that would undermine their commitment to the poor.
Romero’s outlook changed after the assassination of Romero’s close friend Rutilio Grande. Romero became more and more outspoken against social injustice, poverty. From there, he dedicated his life to the cause of Liberation Theology.
On 24th March 1980, he celebrated Mass in a hospital chapel. In that Mass he preached was to become his last sermon, an exhortation to the Salvadorean soldiers to obey God’s higher order and to stop carrying out the government’s repression and violations of basic human rights. When he finished the sermon, as he was celebrating the Eucharist, a gunman stepped into the chapel and shot Romero in the heart.
“This is the hope that inspires us as Christians: We know that every effort to better society, especially when justice and sin are so ingrained, is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us…”
—excerpt from Romero’s last sermon
“Sentir con la Iglesia”—‘feeling with the Church’, is Romero’s motto as a bishop. He felt with the Church by sharing the agony of the Body of Christ—a body being oppressed, abused, shot, raped, crucified, again and again…the poor broke his heart, and the wound never closed.
Romero embraced his flock made up of both sheep and wolves. He cared for the sheep that were threatened daily by the vicious oppressors, and he embraced the wolves, to the point of death, with the embrace of Christ. He embraced them with the love that will not let go until his love has persuaded them to let go of their power and greed.
Romero felt with the Church by constantly asking himself — who do I feel with?
Romero felt with the Church not by showing sympathy, but by living a life of empathy and selfless love.
Romero felt with the Church by identifying with the poorest of the poor, the weakest of the weak, and he was not ashamed of it.
Who do you feel with today?