Romero, Oscar A.

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Archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador (197780);b. Ciudad Barrios, Aug. 15, 1917; d. San Salvador, March 24, 1980. Romero is remembered for his courageous preaching and leadership of the San Salvador archdiocese. His efforts toward the creation of a more just society led to his assassination.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1942, Romero returned to his native El Salvador, where he served as pastor to a church in the city of San Miguel and earned a reputation as a radio preacher. In 1967 he was appointed secretary of the Salvadoran bishops' conference, and in 1970 he was made an auxiliary bishop of San Salvador. He became bishop of the rural diocese of Santiago de María in late 1974 and archbishop of San Salvador on Feb. 22, 1977.

At the time of his elevation to the rank of archbishop, wealthy landowners were attacking the Church's pastoral practice in the countryside. Peasants were forming small ecclesial communities in which they learned to discuss the gospel and apply it to the unjust social conditions that dominated their own lives. Many of them joined peasant organizations to seek social and political change. Controlling the mass media and the government, the oligarchy kept Romero under constant pressure and frequent attack. During his years as archbishop, six priests and numerous lay ministers were assassinated, but the archbishop was never intimidated. A compelling preacher, Romero reached large audiences through his use of the archdiocesan radio station, where he worked for the Church by defending the poor and calling for social justice.

Foreseeing his own assassination, he intensified his message in his final weeks. On March 23, 1980, he pleaded with the government to stop the repression of dissent, calling on soldiers not to obey orders to murder peasants. The next day, an assassin's bullet felled him while he preached in the chapel of the cancer hospital that also served as his residence. He is widely venerated as a martyr, and his tomb in the San Salvador cathedral is a popular shrine.

Bibliography: o. a. romero, Mons. Oscar A. Romero: Su Pensamiento, extant homilies in eight projected volumes (San Salvador 1980). La Voz de los Sin Voz: La Palabra Viva de Monseñor Romero (San Salvador 1980); English translation: Voice of the Voiceless: The Four Pastoral Letters and Other Statements (Maryknoll, N.Y. 1985). The Church Is All of You, ed. J. R. Brockman (Minneapolis 1984). j. r. brockman, Romero: A Life (New York 1990). j. sobrino, Archbishop Romero: Memories and Reflections (Maryknoll, N.Y. 1990).

[j. r. brockman]