Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Archbishop Óscar A. Romero G. 8/15/1917 - 3/24/1980

35 years ago

Let us remember and honor in our hearts the memory of Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero Galdámez, Archbishop of San Salvador murdered while he said mass in the chapel of a hospital March 24, 1980, El Salvador. He was killed because of his opposition to injustice, to cruelty; he was killed because he loved and tried to protect those he loved. He was killed for being a good shepherd.

------La Consagración Del Cafe

-----------------al monseñor Óscar A. Romero

Un día de dios
en mi patio tomando café
nada es normal —
------ni el alcatraz
------con su pene dorado
------ni el iris
------como lava morada
------que derrama un volcán.
Encuentro en el fondo de la taza
casullas bordadas
de mariposas negras
y guindas manchas —
-----el sol dispara
-----centellas de balas plateadas
-----y de cirios ahogados —
----------hay sangre en su brillar.
Pongo la burda taza en su platillo
con un tierno cuidado
como si fuera cáliz
y digo la letanía:
-------El Salvador.
Y un lado del corazón
me sabe blanco y dulce
como la caña
------y el otro,
-----------como el café,
------------------negro y amargo.

------------------© Rafael Jesús González 2015

(Siete escritores comprometidos: obra y perfil; Fausto Avendaño, director;
Explicación de Textos Literarios vol. 34 anejo 1; diciembre 2007;
Dept. of Foreign Languages; California State University Sacramento;
derechos reservados del autor.)

------The Consecration Of Coffee

----------------------to Archbishop Óscar A. Romero

One day of god
drinking coffee in my patio
nothing is normal —
------not the calla
------with its penis of gold
------nor the iris
------like purple lava
------a volcano spills.
I find in the depths of the cup
chasubles embroidered
with black moths
& red stains —
-----the sun fires
-----a scintillation of silver bullets
-----& of candles drowned —
-----------there is blood in its shine.
I place the cup on its saucer
with a most tender care
as if it were a chalice
& say the litany:
-------El Salvador
& one side of my heart
tastes white & sweet
like cane sugar
-----& the other,
----------like coffee,
---------------bitter & black.

----------------© Rafael Jesús González 2015

( Visions-International, no. 44, 1994;
author’s copyrights)

On this day 35 years ago, Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was assassinated, sparking El Salvador's 12-year civil war.

Romero was appointed San Salvador's archbishop three years before, in 1977, at a time when violence in El Salvador was rapidly escalating. The conflict was largely one of class warfare: the landed wealthy — who were aligned with the rightist government and paramilitary death squads — against the impoverished farm workers and other laborers who had begun to ally themselves with leftist guerrilla groups looking to overthrow the government.

Romero had a reputation for being bookish, conservative, and even for discouraging priests from getting involved in political activism. But within weeks of becoming bishop, one of his good friends was killed by the death squads. His friend was an activist Jesuit priest named Rutilio Grande, who had been devoted to educating peasants and trying to bring about economic reforms. He was gunned down on his way to a rural church, along with a young boy and elderly man he had been traveling with. It was a clear moment of conversion for the previously apolitical Oscar Romero, who suddenly felt that he needed to take up the work his friend had been interrupted from doing.

Romero canceled Masses all around the country that week, and invited all to attend the funeral Mass on the steps of the National Cathedral, which he presided over along with 100 other priests. One hundred thousand people showed up at the cathedral for the funeral. He also broadcast his sermon over the radio, so that it could be heard throughout the country. He called for government investigation of the murders going on in rural areas, and he spoke of the reforms that needed to happen in El Salvador: an end to human rights violations, to the regime of terror, and to the huge disparity in wealth, with the landed classes getting rich from the labor of the poor. He announced to his congregation that he wanted to be a good pastor, but he needed everyone's help to lead.

He was called to Rome. The Vatican did not approve of his activism. Romero had become a proponent of liberation theology, a way of viewing the teachings of the Christ from the perspective of the poor. Poverty and oppression came from sin, it argued — institutional sin or structural sin, such as an authoritarian regime or unjust government. In liberation theology, the Gospels are not so much a call to peace or social order; instead they are a call to action, even unrest, to eradicate the sin that is causing poverty and widespread suffering. 

On March 23, 1980, the day before he was shot, Oscar Romero gave a sermon in which he pleaded with low-level soldiers and policemen carrying out murderous orders to choose God's command over their government's. The very next day, March 24, 1980, Romero was killed by a paid assassin while consecrating bread at the altar during Mass. A single bullet from an M-16 assault rifle was fired down the center aisle of the church, striking him in the heart.

Romero's funeral was attended by a quarter million people from around the world. The events galvanized many previously apolitical poor people, who then supported leftist guerrilla fighters trying to overthrow the Salvadoran regime. The 12-year civil war resulted in more than 75,000 deaths and more than a million displaced people. In 1992, peace accords negotiated by the government and leftist rebels were signed in Mexico, with the United Nations and Catholic Church looking on. It included a 70 percent reduction in armed forces, programs for economic growth and to alleviate poverty, and an outside observing system to monitor elections. The accord included a nine-month cease-fire, which began February 1, 1992. That cease-fire has never since been broken. 

The way to Archbishop Óscar A. Romero's canonization, held up by the two previous popes who called him a communist,  has been recently cleared by Pope Francis who declared that Archbishop Romero had died a martyr.


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