In his «Angelus» message on Sunday, August 18, 2013, Pope Francis strongly rejected violence in the name of religion, in an apparent reference to the violence ravaging Egypt, where 40 Christian churches have reportedly been burned recently. “Faith and violence are incompatible,” said the Pontiff. The Pope’s words were reminiscent of Oscar Romero, whose birthday would have been this past week.
- First, Pope Francis said, in connection with his comments on religion and violence, that, “The Christian is not violent, but he is strong with the force of love.” Compare Romero: “We have never preached violence, except the violence [i.e., force] of love which left Christ nailed to a cross. We have never preached violence except the violence that we must each do to ourselves to overcome selfishness and such cruel inequalities among us” (November 27, 1977 sermon).
- Second, Pope Francis said that the peace Jesus brings is neither “neutrality” nor “compromise at any cost.” The Pontiff said, “This peace is not the peace of the grave! Following Jesus means renouncing evil, selfishness and choosing good, truth, justice, even when it requires sacrifice and renunciation of one's own interests.” Compare Romero: “Peace is not the silence of the cemeteries or the product of violence and repressions that silences our voices. Peace is the calm and generous contribution of all people toward the common good. Peace is dynamic and generous. Peace is a right and an obligation that enables every person to occupy their place” (January 8, 1978 sermon).
- Finally, it is not newsworthy that the Pope should refer to current events. Romero always pointed this out when he was criticized for lacing his homilies with commentaries on the political issues that were troubling his country, which, like Egypt, was dangerously close to civil war in the years during which Romero was archbishop. “Pope John Paul II spoke out on behalf of the liberation of the victims of abductions in Italy and referred to specific cases. Therefore I refer to specific cases here in El Salvador,” said Romero (December 23, 1979 sermon). “I am sure that if the Pope were I my place he would point out not only the ten people who had been cruelly assassinated in Italy, but would take the time, like we are doing here, to point out the numerous assassinations that occur day after day,” he said the day before his assassination (March 23, 1980 sermon).