by Joaquin Medrano
The Catholic Church is the faith of 1.2 billion people around the world. The Church is human, like any other person, just like its leader, and by no means is it free of errors.
In the late 1970’s to early 1980’s, El Salvador was a country in the middle of a civil war. The military was fighting against the left guerrilla group, to control the power.
This war brought the Catholic Church to surrender and decide to obey the oligarchs, and support the war. In return they would receive protection from the war.
From day one there were mixed emotions, as many priests supported the idea of the extremist groups. Others, like Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero opposed the idea.
Monsignor Romero was a humble man, born in a loving family, who from a young age allowed him to have a good education and exposed him to the Catholic faith.
Romero went on to become the archbishop of the Salvadoran capital of San Salvador, and there, he was known and loved by many, as well as hated by the oligarchy.
Romero’s message was a loving, rather comforting message, something that the people weren’t used to at the time of the civil war.
The two major parties at war didn’t care to protect the people, they only wanted to prove who had the most power, and who would have the control of the country.
Romero’s message was different from other priests as he chose to see the people first before the state, so he became hated by both the military and the guerrilla group.
Oscar Romero wanted his people to feel safe and stay faithful after all the disaster the country was facing, so he went to the pope for help.
In Rome, many of the corrupted priests from El Salvador informed the pope of Romero’s visit, but they told the pope that Romero was a threat for the Vatican, disobeying the pope’s rule.
Pope John Paul II agreed to talk to Monsignor, and he was not happy or welcoming to Romero, but Romero stated his position and asked for papal support.
Romero went to the Vatican with multiple documents about the mistreatment of Salvadorians around the nation, even showing him photos of fellow priests who died in the war.
Pope John Paul II denied the support and went on to tell Romero, “Monsignor, here we do not have time to read so many things, do not come here with so many papers.”
These words really hurt Monsignor, as he couldn’t believe that the head of the Church was denning the help that was needed.
“At that moment, Monsignor Romero’s eyes filled with tears, perhaps that was what hurt him most: that one of his priests, (after being) murdered in such a cruel way, the Holy Father questioned the reason for which they had killed him in that way,” says Maria Lopez Vigil, a journalist who recorded Romero’s life.
Monsignor Romero made the trip to the Vatican and was later classified as a “danger” so any visit from him to the holy city would be suspicious.
Monsignor never gave up, he was strong and kept his word to help other. He would do whatever it took to stop the oligarchs from oppressing the citizens of El Salvador.
Oscar Romero was finally an enemy from both the military and the guerrilla group. He knew from the beginning he was going to get killed.
Finally, while offering a mass at a local chapel in San Salvador, on March 24th, 1980, Romero was shot, allegedly by the military group.
In 1983, three years after Romero’s assassination, Pope John Paul II visited El Salvador and broke protocol, cancelling everything he had in his agenda.
John Paul II visited Romero’s tomb, where he spent a couple of minutes. Some say he was crying, others that he was asking for forgiveness and blindness from corrupted priests.
Romero’s life was full of challenges in his mind and profession, which is why many considered him a Saint right after his death in 1980.
Romero was beatified in 2015, and after a wonderful miracle last year, was canonized officially on October 14th of 2018, something that many classify as an act of forgiveness for us, his loved ones.