Today was a busy day. In the morning we had a business meeting. This one was only 2 hours so I managed to stay awake the entire time. We had a quick lunch, and then it was time to head off to San Salvador. We were going to see the National Cathedral, the Divinia Providencia, and attend the 25th anniversary celebration of the University of Central America (UCA) martyrs. Below is an explanation of each site we visited and what we did.
The National Cathedral is where martyr and Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero was buried. During Romero’s funeral in 1980, there were too many people at to hold it inside the church. It was held outside in the nearby park. During the funeral, in an attempt to terrorize people, men (the Salvadoran army) fired into the crowd from the National Palace nearby. At the same time cars on the 4 corners around the park exploded. Romero’s body in its casket was carried hand over hand into the basement of the National Cathedral. The priests were whisked away into the Cathedral as 7,000 other people crowded in. The Cathedral is only meant to hold 3,000. While only 40 people died that day the government had achieved its purpose of terrorizing the people. Many people call Romero’s death the beginning of the war.
In front of the tomb
Portrait of Romero
Info about Romero
Divinia Providencia is where Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero lived and was martyred in 1980. A brief history of Romero: Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez was born on August 15, 1917, to Santos Romero and Guadalupe de Jesus Galdámez in Ciudad Barrios. He was born into a very poor family in a dirt floor home. At age 13 he began working to pay his way to seminary in San Miguel but was quickly promoted to seminary in San Salvador and finished his studies in Rome. On April 4, 1942, Romero was ordained a Catholic priest in Rome. Romero remained in Italy to obtain a doctoral degree in theology which specialized in ascetical theology.
On February 23, 1977, he was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador. His appointment was met with surprise, dismay, and even incredulity. While this appointment was welcomed by the government, many priests were disappointed, especially those openly aligning with Marxism. The Marxist priests feared that his conservative reputation would negatively affect liberation theology's commitment to the poor.
On March 12, 1977 a progressive Jesuit priest and personal friend of Romero, Rutilio Grande, who had been creating self-reliance groups among the poor campesinos (country people), was assassinated. His death had a profound impact on Romero who later stated, “When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought, ‘If they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path’.” In response to Father Rutilio’s murder, Romero revealed a radicalism that had not been evident earlier. He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture. As a result, Romero began to be noticed internationally.
On March 23, 1980, the day before his death, he gave a homily speaking directly to the soldiers. “Brothers, you are from the same people; you kill your fellow peasants… No soldier is obliged to obey an order that is contrary to the will of God… In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people, I ask you, I implore you, I command you in the name of God: stop the repression!”
Romero was assassinated on March 24, 1980 while celebrating Mass in San Salvador at a small chapel in Divinia Providencia. He was speaking about a parable just before he was shot: “Those who surrender to the service of the poor through love of Christ will live like the grain of wheat that dies… The harvest comes because of the grain that dies… We know that every effort to improve society, above all when society is so full of injustice and sin, is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us.”
At Divinia Providencia
Portrait of Romero
Talking to the delegation
Some of his crosses
Katherine standing in front of photos of
Romero after his death and during his funeral
Romero's driver's license
Outside Romero's living quarters
A statue of the virgin
Inside the church where Romero was martyred
On the pews
Flowers outside the church
We had our dinner at a place called Pollo Campero. It’s kind of like the KFC of El Salvador. This was a little break from all the seriousness of the day, as you can see from the pictures.
Our next stop was the University of Central America (the UCA). On the night of November 16, 1989, a Salvadoran Army patrol entered the UCA in San Salvador and massacred six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter. The murders were committed because the Jesuits were voicing concerns over the atrocities of human rights violations being committed by the government during the war. They were all taken from their beds in the middle of the night. Some were killed in their rooms while others were dragged outside and killed. They were severely beaten before they were murdered.
We arrived at the UCA a little later than we’d wanted since we took more time at Pollo Campero than we thought we would. Tonight there was to be a procession honoring the 25th anniversary remembering the martyrs of the UCA. The procession started almost immediately. We joined the procession and as we walked I took pictures of the various “carpets” (salt designs on the streets) that had been designed specifically for the procession.
We all stopped at one point to watch a recreation performance of what happened the night the Jesuits, their housekeeper, and her daughter were killed. Then it was on to the mass. The mass began a little after 9pm. It was held in a big parking lot at the UCA. There was a big stage set up in front and several large screens that displayed what was happening on stage during the mass. Throughout the mass they showed different shots of the priest talking, the other priests on stage, and the audience. Some people had chairs but everyone else just stood or sat on the ground.
There were more than 25 priests on stage. But they didn’t all say a homily. Instead, each one had a special part in the mass. The entire celebration was actually a vigil, with people staying there all night singing, eating, and remembering the victims. But we didn’t stay all night. The mass ended a little after 10pm and we made it home about 12:15am. It was definitely worth the trip.
One of the "carpets"
At the mass