Oscar Arnulfo Romero (1917-1980) pastor and martyr
San Salvador, March 24, 1980: at 6:30 pm, as he was celebrating the Eucharist, the archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero was struck down by a gunman.
He was born in Ciudad Barrios into a family of mixed ethnicity. While working as a carpenter in his city, he gradually discovered his vocation to the priesthood. After studying in Rome during the Second World War, he returned to his country and was given increasingly important responsibilities in the church of El Salvador.
After the death of the archbishop Luis Cháver y Gonzales, who had been a staunch defender of the poor and oppressed, the archdiocese of San Salvador was profoundly divided. Oscar Romero was chosen as Cháver's successor to the general satisfaction of the conservative sectors of society, who saw his spirituality as innocuous and disincarnate.
But in his country's situation of political and social distress, Monsignor Romero began to denounce the violence and injustice suffered by the poor and the peasants of El Salvador, courageously exposing the chasm between daily realities and the demands of the Gospel.
He promoted dialogue and reconciliation in the Church and in his country, and in his three years as bishop he became immensely popular. Together with the support of the poor, however, he attracted the hostility of the powerful and of part of his country's Catholic hierarchy.
Faithful to his own episcopal motto, Romero did not cease to "feel with the Church." He sacrificed everything, and finally his life, in order to promote a genuine conversion of the ecclesial body, convinced that only through such a conversion would the Church become capable of denouncing the world's darkness.