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BENEDICTUS MOMENTS

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Monday, 25 May 2015

ARCHBISHOP ROMERO OF EL SALVADOR, MARTYR



Insides that didn't decompose – and other stunning facts about Oscar Romero

By David Ramos and Elise Harris
my source: Catholic News Agency





San Salvador, El Salvador, May 23, 2015 / 02:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In his role as Vicar General, Monsignor Ricardo Urioste was one of the closest collaborators of Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador who was martyred for the faith in 1980 and beatified just this weekend.

And this monsignor has some stories to tell.

Among the most fascinating involve details surrounding the day Romero was killed, what the late archbishop really thought about the controversial and problematic Liberation Theology, and the fact that the martyr’s insides hadn’t decomposed when they were exhumed three years after his death.

Archbishop Romero was brutally killed while celebrating Mass on March 24, 1980 – a time when El Salvador was on the brink of civil war. In February Pope Francis officially recognized his death as having been for hatred of the faith and gave the green light for his beatification.

Msgr. Urioste, who currently heads up the Archbishop Romero Foundation, said that during the time the martyr lived, whenever “he preached, spoke, was a pastor, they accused him of being communist, Marxist, a politician, and a thousand things."

However, he noted how after 12 years of extensive study on the life and writings of the archbishop, the Vatican never found anything that supported these claims.

In an interview with CNA, Msgr. revealed some the of the lesser known facts surrounding the new blessed, as well as his continuing legacy on the Church and the world at large.

What happened on the day Archbishop Romero died?

Msgr. Urioste can easily recall the day that Archbishop Romero was killed, saying that it was “an ordinary day of work” for him.

In the morning the archbishop had a meeting with a group of priests, and then they ate lunch together. After the meeting he went to confession with his usual confessor, which was a priest named Fr. Segundo Ascue.

Once he confessed, Archbishop Romero went to celebrate a 6 p.m. Mass in San Salvador’s hospital of Divine Providence, which was staffed by nuns. The Mass, Mons. Urioste recalled, had been widely publicized throughout the diocese.

While he was celebrating Mass in the hospital’s chapel, the archbishop was shot in the chest from outside.

Msgr. Urioste said that after getting a phone call informing him of what happened, “I immediately went to the hospital, and he was already taken to the polyclinic. A television set arrived, they interviewed me, and after I went to the hospital where he was."

He recalled how as the sisters were going to embalm Archbishop Romero’s body, he told them “please be careful not to drop his insides anywhere, but that they pick them up and bury them, and they did, burying them in front of the little apartment he had in the hospital where he lived."

Three years later, on the occasion St. John Paul II’s visit to the country, the nuns of the hospital “made a monument to the Virgin in the same place where we had buried (Romero’s) insides.”

“When they were digging they ran into the box and the plastic bag where they had placed the insides, and the blood was still liquid and the insides didn't have any bad smell,” he revealed.

“I don't want to say that it was a miracle, it's possible that it's a natural phenomenon, but the truth is that this happened, and we told the archbishop at the time (Arturo Rivera y Damas), look monsignor, this has happened and he said 'be quiet, don't tell anyone because they are going to say that they are our inventions,'” he said.

However, “Pope John Paul II was given a small canister with Archbishop Romero’s blood,” he noted.

Msgr. Urioste recalled that when John Paul II arrived to San Salvador, the first thing he did “was go to the cathedral without telling anyone. The cathedral was closed, they had to go and look for someone to open it so that the Pope could enter and kneel before the tomb of Archbishop Romero.”

John Paul II asked during his visit that no one manipulate the memory of Archbishop Romero, Msgr. Urioste recalled, and lamented how “they politicized him.”

“The left had politicized him, putting him as their banner. And the right politicized him, saying things that are untrue about the bishop, that are purely false, they denigrated him.”

One of the things that the Church in El Salvador wants, Msgr. Urioste said, is that “the figure of the archbishop, known now a little more than he was before, is a cause for reflection, a motive for peace, a motive for forgiveness, a motive for reconciliation with one another, and that we all have more patience to renew ourselves and follow the paths that Archbishop Romero proposed to us.”

“I think that (Romero’s) figure is going to contribute a lot to a better meeting and reconciliation in El Salvador,” he said.

What Archbishop Romero really thought about Liberation Theology

Despite the many accusations leveled against the archbishop of San Salvador, his Vicar General said that Romero “never had a Marxist thought or Marxist ideology in his mind.”

“If there had been, the Vatican, which has studied so much, would not have beatified him, if they had found that he had Marxist interests.”

The real backbone of his closeness to the poor, he said, was the Gospel and the teaching of the Church.

“He was a servant of the Gospel, he never read anything from Liberation Theology, but he read the Bible.”

Msgr. Urioste noted that the archbishop's library, “had all these books from the early Fathers of the Church, from the current Magisterium of the Church, but (he) never even opened any of the books from Liberation Theology, or Gustavo Gutiérrez, or of anyone else.”

“He read the Bible and there he encountered a Jesus in love with the poor and in this way started walking toward him,” he said.

What set Archbishop Romero apart 

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of Archbishop Romero was “his great sense of work. He was an extremely hardworking man and devoted to his work day and night – until midnight and until dawn,” Msgr. Urioste said.

He recalled how the archbishop would begin to prepare his Sunday homilies the day before, and would always include three reflections on the Eucharist. When Romero preached, he made frequent reference to the Fathers of the Church, based his comments on Church teaching and related his thoughts to the country's current reality.

“A homily that doesn't have this relation with what is happening sounds the same here as in Ireland, in Paris, as anywhere,” the priest said.

He recalled how in Romero's time the government was “a ferocious military dictatorship, which had 'national security' as it's theme.”

Everyone who either sided with the poor or expressed concern for them “was accused of being communist, they were sent to be killed without thinking more. There were 70 thousand deaths like this in the country at that time,” Msgr. Urioste noted.

“The social economic reality was of a lot of poverty, of a great lack of unemployment, of low wages.”

Ultimately, Archbishop Romero’s beatification, the monsignor said, is “a triumph of the truth.”

It is a triumph, he said, of the truth of “who Archbishop Romero really was, what he did, how he did it, from the Word of God, from the Magisterium of the Church, in defense of the poor, who were the favored ones of Jesus Christ and who were were also the favored ones of Archbishop Romero./

SAN SALVADOR — María de los Angeles Mena Alvarado knelt at the tomb of the slain archbishop and wept.

She had come to the crypt of the city’s cathedral to pray for a cure for the diabetes that was threatening her eyesight and weakening her kidneys. “I feel that, yes, he can perform a miracle,” said Ms. Mena, 62.

Thirty-five years after Óscar Romero, the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Salvador, was assassinated with a single bullet as he said Mass in a modest chapel here, this small country is celebrating his beatification on Saturday, the final step before sainthood.

For many here and in the rest of Latin America, though, Archbishop Romero is already a saint.

His tireless advocacy for the poor resonates deeply in a region where the gulf between those with riches and those without remains vast. He was the champion of impoverished Salvadorans, his homilies and radio broadcasts giving voice to their struggles. And as political violence battered the country and death squads killed any activist who challenged the existing order, the archbishop was defiant.

“I have frequently been threatened with death,” he said two weeks before he was killed. “If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.”

The decision by Pope Francis to declare Archbishop Romero a martyr to the faith and speed up the long-stalled process toward his sanctification is widely seen as a recognition of the deep pastoral commitment the archbishop demonstrated, at the cost of his life.

“He spoke the truth; he spoke through facts,” said Eva Menjívar, a former Carmelite nun who knew him in the 1970s and continues as a religious worker in poor communities. “We have never stopped teaching the spirit and values of Monsignor Romero.”

For decades, the conservative Vatican hierarchy was suspicious of Archbishop Romero, as it was of many Latin American priests who were influenced by liberation theology, which challenges the social and economic structures that perpetuate poverty. Even today he remains a divisive figure in El Salvador, where some on the right believe he was a communist in clerical garb.

Archbishop Romero never identified himself with liberation theology. But as an advocate for the poor, “he took sides; he was not a neutral bystander,” said Robert Ellsberg, a scholar and publisher of Orbis Books, a Catholic publishing house. “He spoke out clearly without compromise against the violence and injustice of the elite.”

In that sense, he had much in common with Pope Francis, who has said he wants “a poor church for the poor.”

The Rev. Gustavo Gutiérrez, the Peruvian priest whose 1971 book first outlined liberation theology, said Archbishop Romero was motivated by the poverty and suffering he saw in El Salvador rather than by any ideology. “Monsignor Romero now appears to be understood, as he was also very misunderstood,” he said.

Before Archbishop Romero was appointed in 1977, he had not confronted the growing military repression directly. But a few weeks later, a Jesuit priest and friend, the Rev. Rutilio Grande, was assassinated. The archbishop celebrated Mass several weeks afterward and then organized a procession through the rural town where Father Grande had been organizing farmworkers, recalled the Rev. Jon Sobrino, a liberation theologian who became an adviser.

The group suddenly encountered soldiers with their rifles drawn and stopped short. But from the back of the file the archbishop’s voice rang out, urging people, “Forward!” The soldiers lowered their rifles.

In the context of the Cold War, Archbishop Romero’s stance marked him as subversive in the eyes of the United States-backed Salvadoran military, even though he also criticized violence by the guerrillas.

The month before he was killed, Archbishop Romero wrote to President Jimmy Carter to ask him to end United States support for the military. Then, on March 23, 1980, he called on soldiers to disobey illegal orders. “The peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters,” he said.

The next day, a red Volkswagen pulled up outside the chapel at the cancer hospice where he lived, and a shot was fired from the car’s back window through the chapel doorway to the altar, and the archbishop fell bleeding.

A United Nations truth commission found that his murder was planned by a group of officers led by Roberto d’Aubuisson, a former army major who led the death squads. Nobody was ever prosecuted for the assassination, and Mr. d’Aubuisson died of cancer in 1992. Left open is whether he was acting for someone in the oligarchy.

At the archbishop’s funeral, snipers fired on mourners, killing as many as 40 people amid scenes of panic.

In the months after Archbishop Romero’s death, the violence escalated into a brutal civil war in which at least 75,000 people were killed before peace accords were signed in 1992. Under President Ronald Reagan, Washington sent as much as $1.5 million a day to support the Salvadoran military.

The long-awaited recognition for Archbishop Romero comes to a country and a region that is very different in some ways. But the daily reality of the poor has changed little.

Right-wing military dictatorships have been swept away in Latin America. Outright political violence is rare, and in all but a few countries there is a vibrant civil society that is free to criticize governments without fear.

In El Salvador, the warring sides of the civil war now compete in elections, and President Salvador Sánchez Cerén is a former guerrilla commander.

Democracy has proved a profound disappointment, though. Inequality is as entrenched as it was in Archbishop Romero’s time, and the poor of El Salvador — along with those in many other countries in Latin America — now live in the grip of criminal, not political, violence.

“The violence now is of the poor against the poor,” said Roberto Cuéllar, a lawyer who worked with Archbishop Romero to offer legal services to the poor and document human rights abuses. “He would be bitter to see that after reaching the peace accords that we are still in the same place.”

Msgr. Ricardo Urioste, who was the vicar general to Archbishop Romero, said the Salvadoran church had failed to take a role in addressing the gang violence that rages through the poor neighborhoods.

“I think the church should take a more active part,” said Monsignor Urioste, taking a sharply critical view of a hierarchy that has long resisted honoring the archbishop. “I think if Monsignor Romero were here he would talk to the gangs, something no bishop is doing here. And he would be talking about injustice.”

The question now is whether Archbishop Romero’s beatification will prove to be merely a symbol or a watershed for Latin America.

Many Central Americans — almost 50 percent of Salvadorans are younger than 25 — have no direct memory of the wars that racked the region and the role that socially committed priests played.

And a generation of young people who were inspired by liberation theology in the 1970s have moved on, preferring to work in human rights, labor organizing, legal aid or economic development. They have helped to enrich civil society, where the church now plays a much smaller role.

Those who revere Archbishop Romero worry that the long-awaited official recognition may simply be an effort to soften his legacy. “It is an attempt to claim his message,” Lissette Hernández, 42, who works on rural development projects, said after a concert in the archbishop’s memory. “He was correct in the way he lived the Gospel.”

“I have mixed feelings” about the beatification, she said. “Nobody has asked for forgiveness or solved the crime.”

Gene Palumbo contributed reporting



The person who sent me one of the above articles is called Jim Forest.   As a young man, he worked with Dorothy Day in New York, and he received spiritual direction from Thomas Merton (Fr Luis).  He is Orthodox and a writer.  As disciple of Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, he has written their biographies.   Not only that, he is a founder of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship with its blog InCommunion.
This podcast is the story for children of "St Nicholas and the Nine Coins".(please click on the title)   This tells us very simply of another bishop who was a saint and was brother to his fellow bishop Mgr Romero.  They both preached with their lives across the centuries the same Gospel; and they both show us that the path to sharing in Christ's divine life, the life of the Holy Trinity, (theosis) is through humble self-giving, self-emptying obedience (kenosis) which is love.   St Nicholas is known in the West as Santa Claus, or Fr Christmas; but his life was one of self-giving charity, just like Archbishop Romero.  The Christian life throughout the world and throughout the centuries is the work of the same Holy Spirit and is characterised by kenosis and theosis which are dimensions of the same reality of Grace.






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