Rowan Williams on Romero

Speaking on the recent 30th anniversary of the martyrdom of Oscar Romero, gunned down while saying Mass, Archbishop Rowan Williams delivered a remarkable homily in his memory. Among his reflections:

Sentir con la Iglesia: ‘feeling with the Church’. This was Oscar Romero’s motto as a bishop – you’ll see it in many photographs inscribed on the episcopal mitre he wore…

His breakthrough into a more complete and more demanding vision came, of course, as a result of seeing at close quarters what the wolves were capable of, and so realising the responsibility of the shepherd in such a situation. The conversion that began with the vicious slaughter of innocent peasants by the Salvadorean National Guard in 1974 and 1975 came to its decisive climax with the murder of his Jesuit friend Rutilio Grande in March 1977, a few weeks after Romero’s installation as Archbishop. From that moment on, sentir con la Iglesia had a new meaning and a deeply biblical one. ‘The poor broke his heart’, said Jon Sobrino, ‘and the wound never closed.’

‘Feeling with the Church’ meant, more and more clearly, sharing the agony of Christ’s Body, the Body that was being oppressed, raped, abused and crucified over and over again by one of the most ruthless governments in the western hemisphere. In the early summer of the same year, 1977, in the wake of the atrocities committed by government forces at Aguilares, he spoke to the people in plain terms: ‘You are the image of the divine victim…You are Christ today, suffering in history’. These words were uttered in a town where the soldiers had shot open the tabernacle in the church and left the floor littered with consecrated hosts. There could be no more powerful a sign of what was going on in terms of the war of the state against the Body of Christ.

You can find the full text of his message here.

Romero’s Last Sermon

Oscar Romero was an influential figure in the liberation theology movement in Latin America. Outspoken as an Archbishop against the repressive El Salvadorean government, he was gunned down while saying Mass on March 24th, 1980. The day prior he preached the following words:

Because of this, the Church, the people of God in history, is not installed in any one social system, in any political organization, in any party. The Church is not led on a hunt by any of these forces because she is the eternal pilgrim of history and is indicating at every historical moment what does reflect the kingdom of God and what does not reflect the kingdom of God. She is the servant of the kingdom of God.

The great task of the Christian has to be to absorb the kingdom of God, and with that soul filled with the kingdom of God to work on the projects of history.It’s fine to be organized in popular organizations; it’s all right to form political parties; it’s all right to take part in government; it’s fine as long as you are a Christian carrying the reflection of the kingdom of God and trying to establish it there where you are working, and not becoming a toy to the ambitions of the earth.

This is the great duty of the people of today. My dear Christians, I have always told you, and I will repeat, that from here, the Christian group, from the people of God have to come those who are going to be the true liberators of our people….

We want the government to seriously consider that reforms mean nothing when they come bathed in so much blood. Therefore, in the name of God, and in the name of this long-suffering people, whose laments rise to heaven every day more tumultuous, I beseech you, I beg you, I command you in the name of God: Cease the repression!

The full video and transcript can be found here. HT: Rose Marie Berger.