Two weeks before his death, Bishop Oscar Romero gave a telephone interview to a Mexican newspaper. He made the following statement: “I have often been threatened with death. I must tell you, as a Christian, I do not believe in death without Resurrection. If I am killed, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people. I say so without boasting, with the greatest humility.
“As a shepherd, I am obliged by Divine Mandate to give my life for those I love – for all Salvadorans, even for those who may be going to kill me. If the threats are carried out, from this moment I offer my blood to God for the redemption and for the resurrection of El Salvador.
“Martyrdom is a grace of God that I do not believe I deserve. But if God accepts the sacrifice of my life, let my blood be a seed of freedom and the sign that hope will soon be reality. Let my death, if it is accepted by God, be for my people’s liberation and as a witness of hope in the future.
“You may say, if they succeed in killing me, that I pardon and bless those who do it. Would, indeed, that they might be convinced that they will waste their time. A Bishop will die, but God’s Church, which is the people, will never perish.”
Funerals had become an everyday affair in El Salvador, and especially for the Archbishop. Every time someone was killed who was close to him, he felt it a duty as well as an honor to pay tribute to the brother or sister who had died for the liberty of the country. On Monday, March 24, 1980, Archbishop Romero was celebrating an Anniversary Mass for the mother of Jorge Pinto, whose newspaper had been bombed two weeks before. Romero chose the hospital chapel, where he lived a simple life, since he became Archbishop. It was evening. It had been a busy day for Oscar Romero.
The readings and the homily would have been considered prophetic, except for the fact that he was celebrating a funeral Mass. “Christ is indeed raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep…”
A red Volkswagen pulled up outside the open door of the Chapel. Two men sat in the darkness inside the car.
“The Lord is my Shepherd…though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil.”
One man leaned over the steering wheel, as if to fix something, while the other sat in the back seat, looking directly into the chapel through the open door.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains only a grain. But if it dies, it bears much fruit…”
The man inside the car pulled out a small rifle, and aimed it towards the open door of the chapel.
Romero ended his homily as follows: “May this Body immolated and this Blood sacrificed for humans nourish us also, so that we may give our body and blood to suffering and to pain – like Christ, not for self, but to teach justice and peace to our people. So let us join together intimately in faith and hope at this moment of prayer for Dona Sarita and ourselves.”
A blast was heard outside, and a bright spark lit up the inside of the car. Oscar Romero may have been able to see the spark of light in the distance, just before he heard the cracking sound of the discharge, and felt a searing hot bullet rip through his chest, and explode inside of him. The red Volkswagen slowly drove away out of sight. Archbishop Oscar Romero lay on the floor of the chapel, in front of the altar, drowning in his own blood. He died within minutes of the assault.
Oscar Romero is a Martyr in the truest sense of the word. He died during the celebration of the Mass. He was a willing victim. “Before He was given up to death, a death He freely accepted…” There was an extraordinary parallel between the destiny of Our Lord Jesus and that of Oscar Romero, successor to the Apostles of Jesus. He died for his people, many of whom were yelling “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”. There are those on both sides of the political coin, who believe Romero was a pawn of the other side.
There are the conservatives who believe he died because he took on the cloak and banner of the Marxist-Communist theology, under the heading of Liberation Theology, and became a militant leader of the people in their quest to free themselves from the shackles of a super-corrupt, animalistic, inhuman government, or series of governments. These conservatives believe he left himself no other option but to be gunned down somewhere along the line, because he lost his way in his ministry. He should have remained a Priest, who took care of the spiritual needs of his people, and left the physical problems, the starving, the murders, the atrocities, all of that up to the political and military men. But how can you just sit back when those dead people have faces, when they’re brothers and sisters, fellow Priests?
Then there are the super-liberals, who finally liked him, finally accepted him, on their terms. He died, espousing their cause, or so they think, and so he was okay. They still don’t know, twenty years later. They talk about how he was converted, how he went from being one of them to one of us. The fact that he died in that role makes him respectable for them. They still criticize the early years, or actually most of the years of his life and his Priesthood, as being counter-productive to the movement, (revolution?) to Vatican II and the Medell¡n Conference. He died before his time, of unnatural causes at age 62, and yet he was considered an old-timer.
We believe he forgave his murderers, and those who ordered his murder, as well as the slaughter of all the innocents of El Salvador, as you would forgive a child, or a dog who had messed on the floor. They didn’t have the intelligence to know what they were doing. They didn’t have a conscience or a soul, because they were animals. He also forgave his fellow Priests who put him in the impossible position he was in as Archbishop. They fanned the flames of war. They were intelligent. They knew better than to become militants. They were told by their Church to stay out of politics. But they chose the way of the guerrillas. They were overpowered by Marxist philosophies, and became pawns of the powerful. They gave the government and the military the excuses they needed, if indeed they needed any excuse, to attack the people and the Church. They were frustrated at their inability to make a difference. They had forgotten the power of prayer. They traded their Bibles and Rosaries for machine guns.
For more information about Bishop Oscar Romero go here http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/70132