BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO, MAY 23, 2015
|The Romero family tree: dad Santos (left), grandmother Guadalupe (top), the young family (little Oscar inside red circle).|
It is August 1917. World War I is ravaging Europe. Pope Benedict XV has issued a seven-point plan, contained in his apostolic exhortation «Dès le Début», published on August 1, seeking peace. These are the days when the pope is a prisoner in the Vatican. In Fatima, the Blessed Lady appears to a group of children. The Church is recognizable, but different from today: Neither John Paul II nor Benedict XVI, nor much less Pope Francis, have even been born. In El Salvador, Dr. Antonio Adolfo Pérez y Aguilar is the first Archbishop of San Salvador.
In a small highland village called Ciudad Barrios, to the east of El Salvador, a child is born, on August 15 1917. Ciudad Barrios is little more than a small hamlet. Education at the village school ends at the third grade. There are no paved roads that reach Ciudad Barrios. To go to the market in San Miguel, the largest nearby city, the Romero children must walk all night, arriving the following morning.
The newborn’s father is Santos Romero (August 13, 1883 - August 14, 1937), son of Julio Romero and Gertrudis Garcilazo. The mother is Guadalupe de Jesús Galdámez de Romero (June 2, 1888 - August 2, 1961), whom friends call “Niña Jesús” (the Salvadoran familiar term “niña” is akin to saying “Miss”). Her parents are José Ángel Galdámez (who died that same year of 1917) and Guadalupe Portillo de Galdámez.
The child born of Guadalupe and Santos will take as his middle name, the name of the saint of the day, Saint Arnulf—following good Catholics customs of the time. His full name will become well known in due course. Indeed, 98 years after his birth, Oscar Arnulfo Romero Galdámez is recognized as “the most universal Salvadoran.”
When Pope Francis wanted to express his wishes for El Salvador to overcome criminal violence and social problems at the Angelus last Sunday, he said: “I encourage the dear people of El Salvador to continue united in hope, and I urge everyone to pray that justice and peace will flourish again in the land of Blessed Oscar Romero.”
Later the same week, the president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, visited the Romero’s tomb. This is normal for a tomb that has been visited by Pope John Paul II, by President Obama, and many other international leaders as well as countless Salvadoran peasants.
But it was all very different when little Oscar was born on the Feast of the Assumption, 98 years ago.