Msgr Gerard Burns
The beatification for Óscar Romero will be held in El Salvador, on 23 May 2015. Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez (1917–1980) was the fourth Archbishop of San Salvador.
Óscar Romero spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture. In 1980, Romero was assassinated while offering Mass. In 1997, Pope John Paul II bestowed the title of Servant of God on Romero and a cause for beatification and canonisation was opened for him. Pope Francis declared Óscar Romero a martyr on 3 February 2015.
Romero entered the seminary at 13, completed his studies in Rome and was ordained in 1942. Returning home, he worked as a parish priest for over 20 years. In 1974, he was appointed Bishop of the poor, rural dioscese of Santiago de María.
El Salvador had massive inequalities. During the 1970s armed revolutionary groups sought to overthrow a system in which wealthy families controlled the country’s economy and politics. Others sought to work for change by non-violent means. This brought repression and disappearances.
On 23 February 1977, Romero was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador. While this was welcomed by the government, many priests were disappointed, seeing him as not supporting the poor.
Less than a month later, Romero’s friend Rutilio Grande SJ who had been organising rural self-reliance groups, was assassinated. His death had a profound impact on Romero, leading to his radicalisation. He urged the government to investigate but was ignored.
Romero spoke out against poverty and social injustice. His sermons, broadcast weekly on diocesan radio, became the main means for learning what was happening in the country and about who had been killed, tortured or disappeared. The radio station was bombed three times. His diocesan weekly newspaper carried lists of cases of torture and repression.
On his diocesan visits, Romero encouraged those working for human rights and consoled families of the assassinated and disappeared: catechists, unionists, priests. He called for peaceful ways to ensure a just society.
In 1979 a new repressive government came to power amidst a wave of ongoing human-rights abuses.Romero spoke out internationally of his concerns about injustices and the political repression of those struggling for basic human rights.
In his Sunday sermon on 23 March 1980, Romero called on the Salvadorean military to cease the repression. The next day, celebrating Mass, Romero was shot as he lifted up the bread and wine for the offertory prayers. He died on the spot.
Romero is revered for his faith that would not be silent in the face of relentless injustices of the poor and their defenders.
Msgr Gerard will celebrate Mass marking the beatification of Óscar Romero, at 7pm, Friday 22 May, 2015, St Joseph’s Church, Ellice St, Mt Victoria.
Msgr Gerard Burns is Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Wellington, parish priest of St Joseph’s, Mt Victoria, and of Te Parihi o te Ngakau Tapu personal parish for Māori.