Yesterday, March 24, 2012, was the 32nd anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.
Follow the Savior [Christ] …”The church preaches from the poor and we shall never be ashamed to say: The church of the poor, because Christ wanted to put his cathedral of redemption among the poor.” – Monsenor Romero, December 24, 1978
We went to Metropolitan Cathedral, where Romero’s tomb is located, to pay our respects to this very revered man of El Salvador, yesterday. New water fountains have been installed in the square in front of the church; children played in them, and one woman even used the water to wash her hands as she passed through. This is the same church where a mosaic mural installed by artist Fernando Llort many years ago was removed last year, and caused a lot of controversy – before and after pics here in El Faro.net.
Monseñor Romero is a modern day Jesus to the people of El Salvador. Almost anywhere throughout the country of El Salvador, upon entering someone’s home, you will see a picture of Monseñor Romero hanging on the wall of the living room, or at times, and this is often the case at the homes of people in the country, to see his picture proudly displayed outside, on the front patio/porch area. He is a hero and human emblem of the struggling poor of El Salvador, and of Latin America.
Every year, Oscar Romero’s followers make a pilgrimage from where he was assassinated, in the chapel of the Divine Providence Hospital in Miramonte, San Salvador, to the Metropolitan Cathedral where his remains now lie. One church, in the parish of Cristo Salvador, in the Mejicanos neighborhood of San Salvador, makes a special “way of the cross” (viacrucis) in his honor, and the night before his death marches through its 15 stations.
When he first became Archbishop, people suspected Oscar Romero would continue with a conservative approach they had seen him demonstrate until then (and which was a consistent style among religious leaders in El Salvador, to ‘go along with’ the desires of the privileged), but he surprised many by becoming a staunch defender of the poor in the years before his death. Romero was 62 years old when he was killed by death squads on March 24, 1980.
We entered the Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana de San Salvador) through a door on the left, descended a staircase into the basement, and entered an area where a series of tile mosaic pictures of deceased religious leaders hung up high.
Underneath the mosaic of Oscar Romero was a group of people surrounding his tomb. Some were kneeling in prayer, some taking pictures, and others read material on and around his tomb. As people came throughout the day, they left flowers, pictures, notes and messages, as seen here on the right – a note in large letters on orange paper says “No more Militiamen in power” (referring to the appointment of former military leaders to government national security positions). On another note was written a sarcastic message, supposedly by Funes, apologizing for his recent errors. A young man, who appeared to be a Salvadoran National visiting the country – they stick out like sore thumbs with expensive Levi jeans and smartphones - was reading and then taking a picture of the note. Candles were lit everywhere, and the gathering was peaceful.
A woman was finishing reading an homage to him as we approached, and the crowd applauded. It was nearly 2pm, and the largest crowds had already come and gone.