Saint Oscar Romero
Celebrated on March 24th
Oscar Arnulfo Romero was born into a family of ten on 15 August in Ciudad Barrios, El Salvador. His father was in charge of the local telegraph office. When he was 14 years old, Oscar went to study at junior seminary. When his mother was ill and needed money for medicine, Oscar left the seminary for three months and worked in the gold mine in Potosí, earning about 4p a day.
For a time the young seminarian was sent to Rome to study. His father and brother died while he was there. In 1942 Romero was ordained a priest and returned to El Salvador. He became famous for his sermons. He also did a great deal of pastoral work, visiting prisons, organising catechism classes and working with others in the Church to provide help and food for the poor.
On 21 June 1974 he was made a bishop. Violence increased in El Salvador by the mid 1970s, as the government and army began killing poor people who stood up for their rights. When the army killed three people in the village of Tres Calles in Romero’s diocese, Bishop Romero comforted the families and wrote to the President to protest about the murders.
In 1977 he became Archbishop of San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. Some rich people were happy because they thought he would stop priests from helping the poor to stand up for their basic rights. But a few weeks later, his friend Fr Rutilio Grande was shot and killed, along with two companions. The following Sunday, Romero allowed only one Mass in the whole diocese - at the Cathedral - where he spoke out against the murders.
As the violence in El Salvador continued, Romero continued to speak out. Every Sunday his sermon was broadcast by radio. The whole country listened. Romero’s life was often threatened.
In his sermon on 23 March, Romero ordered the army to stop killing people: “In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I beg you, I implore you, I order you, in the name of God, stop the repression!” The next day, a shot killed Romero as he said Mass. A UN report later found that Major Roberto D’Aubuisson, had ordered the killing. Thousands came to the funeral. The army fired into the crowd. 30 people died and hundreds were injured. The civil war in El Salvador continued until 1992.
Pope Francis announced that Oscar Romero was a martyr, and he was beatified in El Salvador on 23 May 2015. Pope Francis sent a letter, which was read out during the beatification ceremony, saying all those who hold Archbishop Romero “as a friend in faith, who invoke him in as protector and intercessor, who admire him, should find in him strength and energy to build the kingdom of God.”
Oscar Romero was canonized by Pope Francis in Saint Peter’s Square on 14 October 2018.