Happy Romero Day!



One of the  saddest gaffes in Pope John Paul ll’s papacy was his abysmal treatment of the saint of Americas. Seeing Romero’s priesthood through the eyes of the  wealthy he challenged and who used  that old hoary chestnut “Marxist” in describing Romero, JP ll bought the spurious charge and actually humiliated Romero when he came to Rome. Ah, well we all make mistakes.The polish pope was no exception. Labelling the lover of the poor a marxist was atonal music to his Polish background.

Here’s Sr. Joan Chittester’s take on Romero:


A church that does not unite itself to the poor…
is not truly the Church of Jesus Christ.
Oscar Romero,
Archbishop and Martyr of El Salvador,
murdered March 24, 1980


There was no doubt that Oscar Romero was a good man, a caring priest, and an upstanding bishop. He decried evil and did charity. But though Romero was a pastor indeed, he was definitely not a prophet. To Romero, the church was to transcend the world, to define its values, but never, ever to concern itself with its affairs. When he became archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, he was the comfort of a conservative episcopacy and the darling of a rich people’s government perhaps, but he was anything but the hope of the poor. Yet three years later, he was assassinated on their behalf. What happened? What does such a turn of events say to the rest of us?

No one knows exactly what changed Romero. No one knows if it was immediate or long in coming. Was it the accumulation of violence over the years that had finally reached a saturation point in him? Was it the sight at last of the body of a friend lying on the garbage heap of bodies that had become such a common sight in El Salvador that moved him? Was it the blinding grace of a genuinely new vision that made him see again what he had seen before but see it differently? Or perhaps it was the very values that had always driven him come together in one decisive moment that impelled him to change: the power of all those years of prayer, the futility of all those years of temporizing in the name of spirituality, the impact of all those years of poverty, the emptiness of all those words about the nature of the church and the meaning of the Gospel—lived until this moment in him almost exclusively as intellectual concepts? Whatever it was, he knew it now and there was no stopping him.

Oscar Romero became a light to the nations, a man on fire, a prophet’s prophet.

In the end he paid the consequence for saying the truth in the light. The church of privilege, his brother bishops, ignored him as many do to this day, in fact, and reported him to Rome for three straight apostolic visitations. This was the blow that hurt him most, he once told friends in tears. The rich waged million-dollar ad campaigns against him in hope of precipitating his mental breakdown. The government taunted him and threatened him and hounded him and ringed him round with violence till on March 24, 1980, they killed him, too. But the people took heart and found hope in a church for whom the Beatitudes were real.

Oscar Romero is a frightening figure if for no other reason than that he shows us to ourselves. The problem is that there is an Oscar Romero lurking in all of us docile, trusting, and obedient people. He teaches us that we too may someday have to change, not because we do not believe in the teaching of the church and the state, but precisely because we do, and they are not living up to it.

Indeed, Romero was a loyalist who became a voice of truth to the system he dearly wanted to serve. He was a pastor who discovered that binding wounds is no substitute for eliminating them. He was a Christian who discovered that the Gospel supersedes the church.

–from A Passion for Life by Joan Chittister (Orbis Books)



  1. On this 34th anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero, you might be interested in the music video we have produced to honor his legacy. You may view the video at http://youtu.be/21CN815v2G0. Feel free to post, embed or review the video. For more information go to TheMartyrsProject.com.

  2. 2

    thanks for the memories, ted.

  3. 3

    In 1997, Pope John Paul II bestowed upon Romero the title of Servant of God, and a cause for beatification and canonization was opened up.

    It is interesting that this counts for nothing. You left that out, because it conflicts with your narrative. You demonize JPII, but look what he did for the cause of Romero? Astounding.

    • 4
      Phil Little Says:

      The story of Oscar Romero is parallel to that of St. Paul – a story of conversion and radical change. Paul was a fierce persecutor of the new Christian sect before his radical conversion experience. Romero (must different) was not contrary to the Christian community, as Paul, but he was “lukewarm”, mediocre, a nice guy whom the oligarchy favored and probably the reason he was chosen to be Archbishop. His appointment was a great disappointment to the progressive sector of the church. But there was deep in his heart a yearning for closeness with the people. The death of his friend, Jesuit Fr. Rutilio Grande, perhaps marks the moment of his conversion. His faith in the crucified Lord on the cross translated into the daily crucifixions of the poor – and in the poor he saw the face of God. In his short ministry as Archbishop, Romero gave his voice so that it would be the voice of the poor. This angered not only the oligarchy and its representatives in the military, but also the majority of the other bishops in the country including the Opus Dei military bishop whose fundamental option was to power and prestige by serving the interests of wealth and power. They denounced Romero to John Paul II who was already well informed by his masters in the CIA, who supported his cause in Poland while JP2 helped them with their problems with the progressive sectors of church in the Americas. The day before Romero was assassinated, JP2 revealed to his Vatican buddies that the following day he would pull the rug from under Romero and have him removed as Archbishop. This was a signal to the military and the government that Romero did not have support from the Vatican and was expendable. JP2 probably did not realize at the time that his decision was fundamental to the actions of the death squad sent to kill Romero. While he condemned the killing of a bishop, which according to Canon law is a major crime, JP2 never offered a word of praise or support for Romero after his murder. JP2 was in the closet with his association with Opus Dei and he was incapable of understanding the significance of the witness of Oscar Romero. The word martyr means “witness”.

  4. 5

    What a load of nonsense, Phil: You are taking the movie at face value, as one of your sources. I love Romero’s homilies, and I have noticed no radical change in the tone of his words from the earliest to the latest. Romero praised Opus Dei and urged the Vatican to Beatify Escriva–and I am not a big fan of Opus Dei, and JP II denounced, if I recall, the murder of Romero.

    Your account is interesting, but it is a narrative that lacks evidence. Provide some sort of evidence for your claim. That’s why I am skeptical. You have a well constructed narrative that “makes sense”, but although all that is true makes sense, not all that makes sense is true. You need evidence, evidence, evidence. A narrative is not good enough.

    Anyways, Ontario has now selected April 2nd Pope John Paul II day.

  5. 6
    Joe Schmidt Says:

    Very well said, Ted Best wishes , be well and thank you Joe

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