«BUILDING ON THE GOSPEL, IN PEACE OR PERSECUTION»
In El Salvador, the Romero Foundation has chosen a passage from a 1979 homily as the theme for this year’s commemoration of the 32nd anniversary of Archbishop Romero’s martyrdom. “Our people have suffered enough!,” Romero said then. “I do not tire of pointing out the fact that if we want to effectively end the violence then we have to eliminate the root of this violence, namely, structural violence, social injustice, the inability of citizens to participate in the public life of the nation.” (September 23, 1979 Sermon.)
Mgr. Ricardo Urioste, president of the Romero Foundation, explains that the quote from the pre-civil war history of El Salvador has resonance in today’s post-civil war reality: If anything, “Monsignor’s cry for the people’s suffering would be more distressed today than it was then,” he argues. “The people suffer more intensely today than they did then.” Romero “spoke of the violence that lies at the root of all violence: social injustice and the lack of participation by ordinary citizens in the governance of the country,” Urioste explains. “The people are the first to suffer and the last to be taken into account.”
Remarkably, in the very 1979 sermon in question, Romero himself had pondered the applicability of his preaching to a peacetime context. “I am asked: And when tomorrow things have been settled, what will the Church do?,” he recounted. “I reply: It will keep on being the same.” He added, “It will feel fortunate if tomorrow in a more just order it need not speak about so many injustices, but it will always have the task of building itself on the foundation of the Gospel. We will have that work to do in times of peace or persecution.” Those words about building the Church the same way regardless of the circumstance might as well be the motto for commemorating Romero any year, as they speak to the timelessness of his message better than anything we might add to that reflection.
As it does every year, this year the Foundation’s commemorations center in San Salvador, where pilgrims visiting the city for the occasion would be offered visits to the Crypt in the San Salvador Cathedral where Archbishop Romero is buried, 8 am – 4:45 pm (with an 11:45 am – 2 pm recess Mon. – Sat.). The Divine Providence Hospital Chapel where Romero was gunned down on March 24, 1980 also is opening its door to visitors, Mon. – Sat., 9 am – 4 pm (with a 12 pm – 2 pm lunch break). The so-called “Little Holy Week” will take place Mon., March 19 to Sat., March 24 (the “Great Day”). All week, the Cathedral crypt will be showcasing a photographic exhibit featuring murals from San Salvador that honor Ab. Romero. There will be daily presentations in the Crypt at 4 in the afternoon on weekdays, featuring such notable speakers as Mgr. Miguel Angel Morán, the Bishop of San Miguel; José Jorge Simán, a businessman and friend of Romero; Carlos Ayala, the director of Catholic radio in San Salvador; Edín Martínez from the Romero foundation (who will speak about, “Our people have suffered enough!,” this year’s theme for the celebrations), and speakers from various religions united for peace.
The “Great Day” will feature the now traditional candlelit procession from the Divine Savior monument to the Cathedral steps, where Mgr. Elías Bolaños, the Bishop of Zacatecoluca, will say Mass at 7:30 pm, followed by the also customary all-night vigil and fireworks. If you plan to be in San Salvador, you should contact the Foundation and tell them Super Martyrio sent you!
Art: Álvaro Gutiérrez, San Romero de América, acrllic on canvass (inset); Fernando Llort, La Armonía de mi Pueblo, border.