Today in all of Central America, particularly  El Salvador, it’s “National Oscar Arnulfo Romero Day.” Today the UN also observes “ International Day For The Right to The Truth”

Who was Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero?

Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero was born on August 15, 1917 in Ciudad Barrios, El Salvador and assassinated March 24, 1980, just one year prior to my fleeing the Civil War that took place in El Salvador.

On Sunday, October 14, 2018 he was declared a Saint by Rome. Pope John Paul II awarded him the title of ‘Servant of God’, but he was canonized in 2018, Pope Francis named him a martyr, for his humanitarian efforts as a bishop

This all occurred, but not first without controversy. 

Right Wing politicians and their constituents opposed it by writing letters to The Vatican because of his political beliefs. 

Initially, he was chosen as an archbishop because he was conservative in his beliefs and was seen as a priest that would not sway to politics and serve those of higher society. 

He was even heard saying unfavorable things regarding the 13 students on July 30, 1975, who were marching to protest repression by the military. After the assasination of Padre Rutilio Grande, for his political beliefs, he became aware of the need for change and organization among the most affected, oppressed and marginalized, the Campesinos

An Archbishop for El Pueblo

He was against violence and against the impoverished way the Campesinos lived. 

Many Campesinos worked in Milpas and Coffee Plantations that they fed themselves from. The plantations were infested with rodents and many became ill with Empacho – Digestive Disorder. They earned very little, risked their lives by working near cliffs, and had absolutely no rights. 

Monseñor, as he was called, urged the Campesinos to organize and demand a better way of life and salary. He congregated with them and invited all of them to attend the church, which most working villagers did not attend prior. He preached to them that poverty did not come from God, but from the government. He gave the people hope that heaven could be also found on earth. 

The Federacion Cristiana de Campesinos Salvadoreños had formed in 1969, but on the brink of a Civil War, due to many organizations revolting, many campesinos became active in leftist guerilla organizations. However, those that remained unattached with an organization, suffered the consequences, abuse and even killings. 

Even so, El Pueblo was not afraid. Comparing themselves to the plight of Jesus Christ, who died steadfast in his beliefs. They were not for either side, but for justice and equity. 

Monsignor was villainized. 

Many people felt that politics had no place in the church and villainized Monseñor, and even wrote letters to the Vatican to have him removed. He was compared to Satan himself, and was even called Oscar Marxnulfo, by a local radio host, for his alleged association with Communism. He constantly received death threats, but he believed in his cause and knew even if the day of his demise came, he was protected by God. He believed in carrying God’s message, fully aware of the consequences. 

In February of 1980, he wrote a letter to President Carter asking him to halt U.S military assistance to the Salvadoran government warning that increased U.S. military aid would “undoubtedly sharpen the injustice and the political repression inflicted on the organized people, whose struggle has often been for their most basic human rights”.

On March 23rd,1980 Monsenor made a call to all those fighting to cease the killings. 

He stated, I would like to make a special appeal to the men of the National Guard, the police and the military. Brothers, you come from our own people. You are killing your own brother peasants. No one has to obey an immoral law. I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression. — Archbishop Óscar Romero. (The Zinn Report)

On March 24, 1980 he was assassinated while giving mass to his people.  His funeral drew more than 250,000 mourners. Sadly, a sniper shot and killed over 40 attendees. 

He has become an icon to El Salvador’s revolution.

You can find so much information on his life online; including books he wrote, documentaries and even a ballad called “Seeds of Freedom”

There’s even a children’s book by a local bookstore in San Francisco named Telegramas al Cielo

I hope that you join me in honoring the Archbishop for his fight for the most marginalized of Salvadorean people, today and always!  Bendicion!

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Cecilia Ortiz