Oscar Romero: a saint for the poor

Oscar Romero, now back on the path to sainthood, was called to conversion by ordinary Salvadorans.

Among the welcome news coming on the heels of Pope Francis’ election was an April announcement that the canonization cause of Archbishop Óscar Romero of El Salvador has been, in the words of Italian Msgr. Vincenzo Paglia, who leads the effort, “unblocked.” Romero’s path to official recognition as a martyr—he has long been a “popular” saint among many Catholics—officially commenced way back in 1997, 17 years after his murder by Salvadoran government agents as he led the Eucharist. His association with liberation theology has unfortunately complicated his cause, as both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI looked unfavorably on that movement’s connection to Marxism.

Romero’s rehabilitation is no doubt a signal of a change in politics at the Vatican. We might also hope it calls to mind not only Romero’s death but all those lost in El Salvador’s civil war of the 1980s, of which Romero was only one victim. Less than a year after his March 1980 death, three religious sisters—Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, and Dorothy Kazel—along with laywoman and missionary Jean Donovan were raped and murdered in December, suffering the victimization shared by so many women in times of war.

At the end of the decade in 1989, six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter suffered a similar fate on the San Salvador campus of the University of Central America. The priests were killed for their activism in service of the country’s poor; mother and daughter Elba Ramos and Celia Marisela Ramos were, like so many poor working people, caught in the crossfire. By the war’s end in 1992, some 75,000 Salvadorans shared their fate. Continue reading


Bryan Cones is a writer living in Boston.

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