JUBILEE YEAR for the CENTENNIAL of BLESSED ROMERO, 2016 — 2017
|The letter; Abp. Romero giving his lecture; with Dr. De Somer.|
On the day of his assassination, Archbishop Oscar A. Romero wrote a letter directed to Dr. Pieter De Somer, Rector of the University of Leuven, for having conferred upon him an honorary doctorate the previous February 2nd. Romero’s letter, written in respectful but routine language, the type usually used for someone who the writer admires but does not know very well, stands out for its ordinariness.
My Dear Dr. De Somer:
I wish to express through you to this prestigious University my deep gratitude, for the high distinction of the Doctorate Honoris Causa and what was, for me, a valuable opportunity to express my thinking from that illustrious podium.
I also appreciate the warm welcome I received that February 2nd and the generous offer of helping students who wish to cultivate themselves intellectually there.
Accept with my affectionate greeting and special admiration, the reciprocity of my prayers.
A letter written as thanks for an event occurring fifty-one days earlier has to be described as tardy. In fact, what is striking is that Romero delays but does not neglect the detail, which highlights his already well known rigorous side. The delay, no doubt, is understandable: in the period between February 2 and March 24, Romero had gone to Rome, visited John Paul II, made his spiritual exercises, kicked off the Lenten season, survived a dynamite attack against his life, and followed a spiral of violence in national life that had led him to exclaim “Stop the repression!”
In Leuven, Romero had delivered a speech that has become a true testament, entitled "The Political Dimension of Faith from the Perspective of the Option for the Poor". His magisterial conclusion continues to resound today: “From the perspective of the transcendence of the gospel, I believe we can determine what the life of the poor truly is. And I also believe that by putting ourselves alongside the poor and trying to bring life to them we shall come to know the eternal truth of the gospel.”
Romero’s letter reflects a certain serenity, in light of the storm that surrounds the martyr these days: he appreciates the “valuable opportunity to express my thinking from that illustrious podium.” It also highlights a man with his eyes firmly fixed on the future: as he is canonized at a synod dedicated to youth, one cannot fail to note his excitement about the possibility of “helping students who wish to cultivate themselves intellectually” in the university.
From its brevity, this final letter reflects the kindness and simplicity of Archbishop Romero.