Nov 16 , 2018 Stories

On 16 November 1989, six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter were assassinated on the campus of the University of Central America (UCA) in San Salvador, as ordered by the country’s High Command. Fr Michael Czerny S.J. was among those who took up the mission of his murdered companions. Here is his reflection, addressed primarily to fellow Jesuits, to share today with friends remembering Ignacio Ellacuría, Ignacio Martín-Baró, Juan Ramón Moreno, Amando López, Segundo Montes, Joaquín López y López, Elba Julia Ramos and Celina Ramos.

According to Pope Francis, Archbishop Oscar Romero, an earlier (26 March 1980) victim of assassins, “gave up worldly security and even his personal safety, in order to dedicate his life according to the Gospel, “magnetized by Jesus”, close to the poor and to his people, with a heart drawn to Jesus and his brothers and sisters.” The occasion was the Holy Mass on Sunday 14 October 2018 canonizing Romero, Pope Paul VI and five others, which I had the joy of concelebrating. This joyful canonization perfectly frames our celebration today of the 29th anniversary of the martyrdom of our six fellow Jesuits and their two collaborators.

The martyrdom of Monseñor Romero had a huge impact on our brothers, the future martyrs; it inspired them deeply. (…) This closeness of Saint Oscar Romero to our martyrs was made most evident when in 1985 the UCA posthumously awarded him a Doctorate Honoris Causa in theology, under the rectorship of Ignacio Ellacuría, another of the martyrs we honour today. (…)

I arrived at the UCA in early 1990, soon after the murder of our companions. In March, we were marching to mark the tenth anniversary of Archbishop Romero’s assassination, and on a poster here and there, one could read, “We want bishops like Monseñor Romero.” This wish has now been vindicated, this prophecy fulfilled, in last month’s canonization.

Two weeks after the canonization, at a Solemn Mass of thanksgiving, Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, highlighted the universal character of the sanctity and martyrdom of Monseñor Romero, and in another sense of ‘universal’, he affirmed that this saint is the saint of those who loved him, but also of those who hated him.

On the same occasion, the archbishop of San Salvador, Monseñor José Luis Escobar Alas, was very right to apologize publicly in the name of that part of the Catholic Church of his country that mistreated, abandoned and defamed Monseñor Romero. He also acknowledged and thanked those who always stood by Monseñor Romero, referring explicitly (…) to the Society of Jesus – represented by our companion martyrs of the UCA whom we celebrate today.

Let us thank God for how close Saint Romero of the Americas was with our martyrs of the UCA, whom he so inspired. Let us ask for the same “magnetization” by Jesus and closeness to the poor.

Michael Czerny S.J.

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