Óscar Arnulfo Romero
Beatified: May 23, 2015
Venerated: February 3, 2015
Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez was born in the small town of El Salvador known as Ciudad Barrios in 1917. His father trained him to be a carpenter, but from a very early age Oscar knew he wanted to be a priest. He left home at the age of 14, traveling by horse to the large city where he could study.
He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of San Salvador in 1942 and quickly became a popular, well known parish priest and editor of his diocesan newspaper. In 1967, he went to work for the bishops of El Salvador and soon became Bishop of Santiago de Maria.
One day in 1975, soldiers raided a village in his diocese and killed many innocent people, claiming they were looking for hidden weapons. Bishop Romero was horrified. At the funerals of these villagers, he spoke about people’s human rights and how the military was wrong in the things they did. He even wrote to the country’s president.
When he became Archbishop of San Salvador, the nation’s capital, the government began to turn on the Church, arresting priests and sending them to other countries, and killing people who protested against the leadership. The government killed a priest friend of the archbishop as a warning that he should keep quiet. Archbishop Romero excommunicated the murderers, announcing they could not receive sacraments in the Church. The government closed Catholic schools, and more priests were tortured and killed, as were teachers of religion. Even possessing a Bible or a hymnbook became illegal.
Protest for change must always take place within gospel teaching, Archbishop Romero told the people of his country, asking them not to be violent. Soon, despite support from many other countries in the world, the archbishop became the target of the Salvadoran government’s anger.
On March 24, 1980, he was gunned down by an unknown assassin while celebrating Mass in a small hospital chapel. The day before, he had asked Salvadoran soldiers to obey God and not the government.
More than 250,000 Salvadorans attended his funeral, during which a bomb exploded and more people were killed. Many Salvadorans in the following years “disappeared,” never to be seen or heard from again — most likely killed.
In 2010, the government of El Salvador formally apologized for the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.
In 1997, Pope John Paul II bestowed upon Oscar Romero the title of “Servant of God,” when his cause for canonization was opened. Archbishop Romero was a fearless defender of the poor and suffering in his nation, and he ultimately gave his life for them.
In February of 2015, Pope Francis declared Archbishop Romero a martyr. The Church formally beatified him on May 23, 2015.
Connecting to Be My Disciples®
Grade 4, chapter 14
Connecting to Blest Are We: Faith & Word®
The Story of the Church, chapter 19