30th anniversary of the death of Monsignor Romero, “Father of the Church and of the people of El Salvador”
Leaders, heroes, founders, are always necessary. But most important of all is to generate life. In our case, populations and churches. This is what Monsignor Romero did, together with Helder Camara in Brazil, Leonidas Proaño in Ecuador, Sergio Méndez Arceo in México, and the bishops martyrs Enrique Angelelli in Argentina, Juan Gerardi in Guatemala, Joaquín Ramos in El Salvador, and Gerardo Valencia Cano in Colombia. Together with many others, also women, we have called them “ Fathers of the Church and of the People”. This is why it is good to remember Monsignor Romero today, remembering his solidarity in his paternity and maternity towards his people.
The idea to remember the "Fathers" is not new. In the origins of the Christian churches, Fathers of the Church were called all those who excelled for 1) their sanctity in their life, that is to say their deep humanity; 2) for explaining with wisdom the word of God and the word of men; 3) to lead the churches according to the signs of their time; 4) for being accepted in their teachings and leadership by the community.
These four conditions mentioned are true in Monsignor Romero´s life. 1)Obvious sanctity that led him to give his life; 2) wisdom in the word of God in his preaching and pastoral letters of 1978-79: The Church and popular policy 3) leadership to guide Christians and all human beings of good will in the true reality of our time 4) acceptance and warmth towards the poor and, as Jesus, refusal of the rich and powerful. Monsignor Romero was dearly loved for his love for the poor of his people.
Let us remember Monsignor Romero in his own words as "Father of the Church and of the people of El Salvador".
1. A man of his People.
Ignacio Ellacuría used to say : “ it is difficult to talk about Monsignor Romero without mentioning his people”. His option for the poor was total. He announced to the poor the good news of the liberation and of a liberating God. In the poor he saw Christ crucified and he became one of them. Monsignor Romero found the grace of God in his people: “ with these people , it is not hard to be a good Sheppard ” (November 18, 1979). And with a great humility he said at the end of his life " If I am killed, I will resurrect in the people of El Salvador" (March, 1980).
These crucified people, present in Rutilio Grande and in the boy Nelson, converted him, which is most important and is often overlooked. And thus became the new Monsignor Romero, converted. According to Ellacuría: “ what had been a grey preaching, became a torrent of life to which the population went to calm their thirst".
2. An honest man with solidarity
Monsignor Romero was honest with the reality of El Salvador and a good part of the reality of Latin America in his time. On one hand he strongly supported popular Church organizations. On the other, he inserted himself in that reality of El Salvador that became world famous: " be a patriot, kill a priest", with murders of priests and nuns, coup d´état, announcements of war, all of which approached with injustice, oppression and repression.
Monsignor Romero denounced the sin of that reality: “ This is the great evil of El Salvador: richness, private property as an untouchable absolute. "We are in a world of lies where nobody believes in anything" (March 18, 1979). “The organized sector if the population continues to be massacred only for going out in the street in an orderly way” (January 27, 1980). “Violence, murders, torture that end so many lives, to stab and throw into the sea: this is the empire of hell” (July 1, 1979).
This denouncement was not only against the oppressors but in defense of the oppressed. It was also a way to try to make the oppressors more human.
“Brothers, they belong to our same people, they kill their peasant brothers and before an order to kill given by a man, the law of God that says " You shall not kill" should prevail. Not one soldier is forced to obey an order against the law of God. It is time for them to recover their conscience and to obey their conscience before the order of sin [...] Therefore, in the name of God and the name of this suffering population, whose cries increasingly raise up to heaven, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God : Stop the repression ". (March 23, 1980).
In addition to denouncing, Monsignor demanded conversion and warned about the punishment that the country would go through if it was not converted. But most characteristic of him was being a prophet of consolation like Isaiah in " console. console my people". " I am sure that so much bloodshed and such pain inflicted on the families of so many victims will not be in vain" (January 27, 1980). "The Lord´s glory will shine on the ruins". (January 7, 1979).
Monsignor Romero not only lived immersed in reality, but also assumed it and found in it the glory of human being and of being a Christian. In words I had never heard before I heard Monsignor Romero say “ I am happy, my brethren, that our Church is prosecuted" (July 15, 1979). “It would be sad that in a country where there are terrible murders, we would not find priests among the victims. They are a testimony of a Church incarnated in the problems of the people". (July 4, 1979).
Monsignor was neither out of his mind or a masochist. He was ready to pay a high cost for a noble cause, but what we have just heard is something different : Monsignor Romero wanted from the bottom of his heart to be with his people to the end.
3. A man of God
Hearing him speak this way, one should not take his speech lightly. All of us ask ourselves some time what we finally have in our reality and in our lives. The answers can be varied: the human, the fraternal, the utopia, justice, even democracy. In my opinion Monsignor Romero stated what was his ultimate desire in life with the following words: “ No man knows himself until he has met God... What I would give, my brethren, if the fruit of today´s preaching would be that each one of us would meet God and that we could live the joy of his majesty and our smallness!!" February 10, 1980.
These words were pronounced six weeks before being murdered amidst a great historic density. His words were no words of routine. I bring them forth because our Latin American continent, our world and our churches have a great need, I think, of facing the ultimate.
A week after his murder, I was asked to say some words about him and what came up naturally was "Monsignor Romero believed in God". One can express the ultimate feeling as one wishes, but we cannot ignore what his ultimate desire was.
I end with three words, the first one very well known, belongs to Ignacio Ellacuría: “with Monsignor Romero, God passed through El Salvador". The best we have in us as human beings, proceeding from and above and below, was made present in Monsignor Romero".
The second one belongs to Pedro Casaldáliga, Brazilian, Catalán, Sp
anish, as how to remember Monsignor Romero: “our coherence will be the best canonization of Saint Romero of America, pastor and martyr.
The third one is to join forever God with the poor people. Casaldáliga says so in these words:" everything is relative except God and hunger". Monsignor Romero also said it with the following words in Louvain in 1980: “the glory of God are the living poor".