Archbishop Oscar Romero in the talking mural La Lucha Continua in SF
Archbishop Romero speech
in Spanish with English translation (1 MB mp3)
From Freedom Archives audio archives
Photo: Scott Braley

Archbishop Oscar Romero

Oscar Romero was the archbishop of San Salvador, assassinated while saying Mass in 1980 by death squads angered by his public voice against poverty, social injustice, political killings, and torture in El Salvador at the time.

As with many Central American countries, El Salvador was a national security state, a country where the military is accountable to no one and the people are defenseless against tyranny and oppression. There was no peace. In the face of this injustice, Romero took it upon himself to use the Church as a light of hope and to challenge the oppressors.

Soon after becoming the Archbishop, however, Romero's close friend Father Rutillo Grande was assassinated by a paramilitary death squad. This had a dramatic and profound effect on his life, changing him from a status quo moderate to a fierce activist against injustice. Father Grande's assassination resulted in Romero's determination to redefine the nature of the Church as the defender of the poor and to denounce from the pulpit the evils of state-supported death squads. As a gesture of solidarity with the preachings of Father Grande, Romero refused to appear in any public ceremonies with Army or Government personnel until the true nature of his friend's murder was brought out and true social change began. Never before had such a high-ranking church leader made such a bold movement.

Archbishop Romero soon became the voice and conscience of El Salvador. His words and actions crossed state borders and were heard internationally. His fight for human rights led to his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. On March 24, 1980 at 6:25 p.m. Romero was performing mass. As he prepared the Eucharist, a shot from the back of the church struck him in the chest, killing him instantly.

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More: Biography of Romero and Remembering Romero