Saint Óscar Romero, bishop, martyr (Feast: March 24)

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Home > Media > News > Saint Óscar Romero, bishop, martyr (Feast: March 24)
Saint Óscar Romero, bishop, martyr (Feast: March 24)

By Michael McKenna, Director of the Office of Liturgy.

In the past two centuries many Latin American political regimes have struggled to control and reduce the power and influence of the Catholic Church. Anti-clerical laws were enacted and accompanying social reform witnessed anti-clerical violence resulting in the destruction of church property and the killing of priests and religious.

The distinctive pastoral approach of the Latin American Church since Vatican II has been one of solidarity with the suffering masses: preferential option for the poor.

Proclaimed a Saint on October 14 last year, Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated on March 24, 1980 as he was saying Mass.

An outspoken voice for the poorest people of his country, he placed himself at the centre of a conflict between the military government and guerrilla groups that claimed tens of thousands of lives. Romero broadcast a weekly sermon across El Salvador on the Church's radio station. In these sermons, he religiously listed disappearances, tortures, murders, and was considered as the main source in El Salvador about what was happening.

Several investigations have concluded that the murder was carried out by a death squad linked to the military dictatorship, who falsely believed that Archbishop Romero was supporting Marxist guerrillas because of his concern for the poor of his country. Romero’s funeral was celebrated in the plaza outside the cathedral and drew an estimated 250,000 mourners.

In 1989, the first feature film of the company founded by the Paulist Fathers screened at the Toronto International Film Festival to great acclaim. Romero, directed by Australian filmmaker John Duigan and starring Raul Julia as Romero - fondly remembered for his role as Gomez Addams in the Addams Family movies - the film explores the life and work of the saint.

In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 24 as the "International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims" in recognition of the role of Archbishop Romero in defence of human rights. His likeness features among the ten 20th-century martyrs depicted in statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey in London and his witness to the Gospel is recognised in the liturgical calendars of a number of Christian denominations.

A martyr killed out of hatred of the faith, in a western world increasingly hostile to Christianity and the Gospel message we do well to invoke his prayerful intercession.