On Saturday, May 23, 2015, in San Salvador, Archbishop Oscar Romero was beatified.
At least 250,000 people filled the streets of the capital San Salvador for the ceremony, presided over by Cardinal Angelo Amato.
Born in 1917 in a mountain town near Honduras, Romero apprenticed as a carpenter as a boy before entering the church, where he rose through the ranks, appearing to be a quiet conservative. Just one month after Romero’s inauguration as Archbishop, a priest, Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit who headed a rural parish, and who was one of Romero’s closest friends, was killed by state agents. The archbishop became a staunch critic of the military government, which killed, kidnapped and arrested priests and laypeople who had been organizing peasants and supporting workers’ rights. His sermons, often broadcast on radio, riled rightwing extremists. But he ignored multiple death threats, remaining defiant up to his murder while giving mass in the chapel of a San Salvador hospital. He was shot dead by a sniper on March 24, 1980. No-one has yet been prosecuted for the murder.
About 80,000 people died and 12,000 disappeared during the war in the Central American nation. In a letter to the Archbishop of San Salvador, Luis Escobar Alas, Pope Francis said the beatification of Archbishop Romero created “a favorable moment for true and proper reconciliation.” The Pope also wrote: “In this day of joy for El Salvador and also for other Latin American countries, we thank God for giving the martyr archbishop the ability to see and feel the suffering of his people.”
“The law of God which says thou shalt not kill must come before any human order to kill. It is high time you recovered your conscience,” Romero said in his last homily in 1980, calling on the National Guard and police to stop the violence in the country. “I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression.”
View a short video on the beatification process here
View an American film on Romero here