Rivera Damas, Arturo (1923–1994)

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Rivera Damas, Arturo (1923–1994)

Arturo Rivera Damas (b. 30 September 1923; d. San Salvador, El Salvador, 26 November 1994), archbishop of San Salvador. Born in San Esteban Catarina and ordained a Salesian priest in 1953, Rivera, who held a degree in canon law, was consecrated auxiliary bishop of San Salvador in 1960. His support of progressive clergy soon gained him the enmity of the conservative oligarchy, especially when, in January 1970, he refused to leave the Ministry of Defense building until the government released Father José Alas, who had been arrested for advocating land reform.

When Oscar Romero was named archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, Rivera was made bishop of Santiago de María, Usulután. He was the only Salvadoran bishop to back Romero consistently in his struggle against government-sponsored repression and in his actions on behalf of Christian base communities.

After Romero's assassination in March 1980, the Vatican named Rivera apostolic administrator. Nearly three years later, he was made archbishop. As leader of the Salvadoran church, Rivera did not totally follow in his predecessor's footsteps. Although he consistently denounced the brutalities of the security forces and opposed U.S. military aid, he was less sympathetic than Romero to popular organizations. He tried to take a neutral position in the civil war, calling for dialogue and a negotiated solution, while sometimes acting as a mediator.

In 1989, Rivera faced a difficult period when six Jesuits priests were assassinated at the Universidad Centroamericana "José Simeón Cañas" (UCA) by the Fuerza Armada de El Salvador's group. In this massacre died Ignacio Ellacuría, S. J., adviser and friend of Rivera. In 1992, he mediated the final peace accords negotiation that ended the civil war.

In the year preceding his death, Rivera worked tirelessly for the canonization of Oscar Romero, who was assassinated and considered a martyr of the Church.

See alsoCatholic Church: The Modern Period; Jesuits; Romero, Oscar Arnulfo; San Salvador.


Tommie Sue Montgomery, "The Church in the Salvadoran Revolution," in Latin American Perspectives 10, no. 1 (1983): 62-87.

Phillip Berryman, The Religious Roots of Rebellion: Christians in Central American Revolutions (1984), pp. 100-161.

Additional Bibliography

Rivera Damas, Arturo. Dar desde nuestra pobreza: Segunda exhortación pastoral. San Salvador: Arzobispado, 1995.

Rivera Damas, Arturo. La palabra queda. Vida de Monseñor Oscar A. Romero. Archdiocese of San Salvador: Arzobispado de San Salvador, 1983.

                                        Edward T. Brett