News Release

Pope Declares Oscar Romero a “Martyr”


AP is reporting: “Pope Francis decreed Tuesday that slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero was killed in 1980 out of hatred for his Catholic faith, approving a martyrdom declaration that sets the stage for his beatification. …

“Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was gunned down by right-wing death squads March 24, 1980 while celebrating Mass. A human rights campaigner, Romero had spoken out against repression by the Salvadoran army at the beginning of the country’s 1980-1992 civil war between the right-wing government and leftist rebels.

“His assassination presaged a conflict that killed nearly 75,000.

“Romero’s sainthood cause had been held up by the Vatican for years out of concern over his perceived association with liberation theology…”

Director of the Office of the Americas, Bonpane served as a Maryknoll priest in Guatemala and has written five books including Guerrillas of Peace: Liberation Theology and the Central American Revolution. His most recent book is his autobiography, Imagine No Religion.

Bonpane said today: “First of all, Romero is already a saint by what’s called ‘Sensus Fidelium’ or the ‘Sense of the Faithful’ — the people of Latin America have been calling him a saint for years.

“But this action by the Pope is really a slam on John Paul II, who forced Romero to wait for weeks in Rome and wouldn’t talk to him when Romero was desperately trying to explain the situation to him.

“This is a great moment. What Romero did was to address what’s called ‘the trinity’ in Latin America: the oligarchy, church and military. He had the church turn against the other two and all hell broke loose. He’d say ‘the poor converted me.’ He started as a conservative, but ultimately identified with the poor of the earth and he was killed for that.

“John Paul II, coming from Poland, was blinded by his anti-communism. The inquisitor came in the person of Ratzinger [later Pope Benedict XVI] — attacking and shutting up people up. That’s the reason I left the clergy — I was told to shut up and forget everything I learned about Latin America and go to Hawaii. Ratzinger was the enforcer against liberation theology, which Romero had embraced.

“Liberation theology came out of the Vatican II Council in the 1960s. It was an attack on imperial theology, which came out of the the Council of Nicea called by an emperor, Constantine, which was the cause of sectarianism, inquisitions, crusades and conquistadors. It’s with us today — this ‘muscular Christianity.’ We see it with something like an American Sniper’ — about a man invoking Jesus to invade and kill. This makes the state the religion — with nothing to do with the actual teachings of the carpenter from Galilee.”