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Events, new books recount Romero’s life


Tens of thousands of visitors from around the world are expected for the processions, religious services and an international ecumenical conference commemorating the 20th anniversary of the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Books, posters and even a CD are being produced for the occasion.

Events are being organized for the week concluding March 24, the date on which a rightist death squad assassinated Archbishop Romero in 1980.

Romero, widely considered a “safe” candidate when he was appointed archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, underwent what has commonly been referred to as a “conversion,” when the government began attacking and killing priests in his diocese.

In his own words, he called the turnabout from a quiet academic to a bold advocate for the poor and marginalized an “evolution.” His words and advocacy eventually got him killed.

The Romero Foundation, a body of lay people and religious that has been organizing the commemoration since last year, said the main downtown cathedral will be the site for a midday Mass March 24 presided over by Archbishop Fernando Sáenz Lacalle of San Salvador.

Earlier, human rights and community organizations will hold a Mass at the Divine Providence Hospital where Archbishop Romero was killed, then walk in what has become a traditional procession each March 24 from the hospital to the archbishop’s tomb beneath the cathedral.

The same day, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles will preside over an open-air ecumenical service in another part of the city. From there, another procession will set off for the center of town, to be followed by an all-night vigil in the main civic square, organizers said.

One of the highlights of the activities marking the 20th anniversary will be the international conference being organized by International Christian Secretariat of Solidarity with Latin America, based in Mexico City.

Among those invited as speakers at the five-day event are Bishops Samuel Ruiz García of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico, and Pedro Casaldaliga Pla of the territorial prelature of São Felix, Brazil, as well as theologians such as Jesuit Fr. Jon Sobrino.

“The theme of the event is Romero, his life and hope. The idea is to look at the current situation in our countries in the context of what Romero said and represents,” said Rolando Casco, one of the organizers.

Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M., will take part in a discussion group in the crypt of the cathedral, one of a series of public study groups being organized during the week.

The national university will hold a roundtable discussion March 23 to discuss “the historical situation/context that gave rise to the murder of Romero.”

At the request of the Romero Foundation, the Salvadoran government agreed to authorize an exhibition of different works of art by Salvadoran artists, inspired by the memory of the archbishop.

Salvadoran artists living in the United States are also expected to take part in what will be a unique display installed in the state-run national gallery. Another first will be the showing on national television of “Romero,” the 1989 film starring the late Raul Julia.

National Catholic Reporter, March 17, 2000