At the beginning of our Catholic Worker community, July 1999, there was no doubt about its patron. Msgr. Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, was chosen because of his fidelity to the Faith — his commitment to the poor — his courage in standing for the Faith even when threatened with violence and death. However imperfect are our attempts, our goal has always been to follow his holy example to build the Reign of God right here and right now.
The United States is guilty of grave crimes against the people of El Salvador. Msgr. Romero was assassinated just three weeks after he wrote a letter to President Carter, asking him to not send more guns and munitions to the El Salvadoran army, because . . .
The current ruling Junta, and above all the armed forces and security forces, have unfortunately not demonstrated their capacity to resolve the grave national problems through political practice and structural means. In general, they have only resorted to repressive violence, producing a volume of dead and wounded that is greater than that of recent military regimes whose systematic violation of human rights was condemned by the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights.
The brutal way in which the security forces recently evicted and assassinated the occupants of the headquarters of the Christian Democratic Party despite that the Junta and the government (it would appear) did not authorize that operation is evidence that the Junta and the Christian Democrats do not govern the country, but rather, the political power is in the hands of military men without scruples, who only know how to oppress the people and favor the interests of the Salvadoran oligarchy.
After the assassination of Romero, gunned down during the Offertory of Mass, the violence continued and more than 85,000 people in El Salvador were killed, one million were displaced, and 8,000 went “missing”, over the next decade.
While that civil war ended, the violence continues in the form of gang warfare. This is not a surprise, given the trauma of the years of civil war. That much violence sowed the seeds of the bitter harvests we see today. The murder rate in El Salvador is 68 per 100,000 population — the highest in the world. The US rate is 4 per 100,000.
So his intercession is greatly needed today. We give thanks to God for his beatification. May his example inspire all of us to repent of our individual and national sins of empire, to stop cooperating with the structures of sin that support violence, greed, and injustice, and to work for reconciliation, peace, and justice in solidarity with all the peoples of the world.
A Prayer to the Blessed Oscar Romero of El Salvador
During a time of grave evil,
you spoke with courage to rebuke the powerful,
pleading with them to cease their violence,
and repent of their murders.
You called upon the rich to end their greed,
to embrace just economic systems,
and to relinquish their power.
In solidarity you comforted the poor,
gave them hope and strength,
and witnessed the crimes against them,
always speaking truth, justice, mercy, and love.
Teach us to understand our complicity with the sins of empire.
Help us end our support for the structures of sin that
bring violence and injustice into the world.
Be our guide as we build structures of justice, mercy, love, and beauty.
O God, who by the preaching and teaching of Oscar Romero
has given us an example of love and fortitude in the face of violence and greed,
grant that we who reverence his life and ministry
may also imitate his fidelity to truth, justice, and peace.
Soon come the promise of Mary,
that all tyrants will be cast down,
the proud scattered,
the lowly exalted,
and the hungry filled with good things.
through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
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