|April 7, 2014 • VOL. 52, NO. 7 • Oakland, CA|
Martyred Salvadoran bishop commemorated in Oakland
Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, assassinated 34 years ago while saying Mass "dedicated his life to helping the poor and the needy," said Oakland Bishop Michael Barber, SJ.
They arrived as refugees in Honduras where they lived in a camp for seven years, growing maize and vegetables.
Although he did not know Archbishop Romero personally, Zavala listened to the archbishop's homilies every Sunday on the radio. "He defended his people, denouncing injustice and evil. His message was clear: Do not kill."
One day before his death, Archbishop Romero gave a final sermon in which he called for an end to military repression: "I would like to call on, in particular, the men of the army, those on National Guard bases, in police barracks: Brothers, these are your own people. Would you kill your brother peasants? Before the order to kill is given, should not the law of God prevail, which says, 'Do not kill?'"
Today, Zavala was grateful Bishop Barber came to celebrate Mass." He is our pastor, he came to the poor, the peasants, to our village," he said.
Zavala returned to El Salvador, spent two years there, and emigrated to the United States in 1989. "The situation was very bad for those who were associated with the Church, so we left out of fear," he said.
When the family arrived in Oakland, it received assistance from the Catholic Worker, a home founded in 1987 to provide refuge to Latin Americans fleeing civil war in their countries.
Road to sainthood
In 1990 the Salvadoran church petitioned The Vatican to make Archbishop Romero a saint. The process stalled while his sermons were reviewed. The church had questions about whether Archbishop Romero was killed for his faith or for his political stance. And there has been concern that he has been used as a political symbol rather than a religious symbol in El Salvador.
Pope Benedict XVI "unblocked" the sainthood cause for Archbishop Romero, and Pope Francis is accelerating it. For the process toward sainthood to continue, the pope needs to formally declare Archbishop Romero a martyr, meaning he died for the faith. A miracle attributed to a sainthood candidate's intercession is not needed for the beatification of a martyr. But a miracle would be needed for his canonization.
Asked about the process of beatification for Archbishop Romero, Zavala replied, "He is already a saint to us."
The Catholic Worker Movement began in 1933, when Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin published The Catholic Worker newspaper to promote justice and mercy. Their movement was committed to nonviolence, poverty and the Works of Mercy. They soon opened houses of hospitality for the homeless and the hungry. Today there are more than 220 Catholic Worker communities worldwide.
(Catholic News Service contributed to this article.)
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