St. Oscar Romero

Archbishop and Martyr (1917–1980) 
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St. Oscar Romero by Philip Bannister. Used with permission

In 2015, the Vatican decreed that Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador had died as a martyr “in hatred of the faith,” opening the way for his beatification, and ultimately his canonization in 2018. For an archbishop slain at the altar while saying Mass, this decree might have seemed unremarkable. But for many years Romero’s cause was blocked by powerful prelates who claimed he had not died for his faith but for mixing himself up in politics. This charge was answered by the postulator of Romero’s cause who said his assassination “was not caused by motives that were simply political, but by hatred for a faith that, imbued with charity, would not be silent in the face of the injustices that relentlessly and cruelly slaughtered the poor and their defenders.”  

Romero’s canonization did not simply enlarge the Church’s understanding of martyrdom; he offered a powerful example of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in a world marked by violence and injustice. While many saints have exemplified a model of holiness in the form of escape from a sinful world, Romero’s holiness was expressed in solidarity with a wounded world. Many saints practiced charity, but Romero combined charity with a passion for justice. He answered the call for holy witnesses who are faithful to the end, who challenge both the Church and the world, and who are willing to speak the truth and pay up personally.  

“One who is committed to the poor must risk the same fate as the poor. And in El Salvador we know what the fate of the poor signifies: to disappear, to be tortured, to be captive, and to be found dead.” —St. Oscar Romero 

Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.