Today we remember and celebrate the life and witness of Oscar Romero (born 1917), the Archbishop of San Salvador, who was assassinated on this day in 1980. Although he started out as a conservative Catholic priest and theologian, his faith deepened over the years and took a radical turn in response to the anguish of the Salvadoran people. The question that burned in his heart and eventually turned his life around was "How do we speak of God in the midst of unjust suffering?"

Over 60,000 people died in the civil war which raged in El Salvador during the 1980s. The right-wing government, with financial aid from the United States, carried out a vicious campaign against leftist guerillas, and many civilians were caught in the crossfire. Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador, had tried to prevent this by speaking truth to those in power, calling them to conversion and a change of their ways. He was killed while celebrating mass in a hospital chapel.


Here are some quotations from the sermons, speeches and writings of this Catholic martyr to inspire you to speak truth to power where you are and to seek justice.

Do Not Hate
"Do not let the serpent of rancor nest in your hearts. There is no greater misfortune than a vindictive heart, even though it be turned against those who have tortured your children, against the criminal hands that have placed them among the missing. Do not hate."
The Violence of Love complied by James R. Brockman

The Purpose of Our Life
"The purpose of our life is God's glory. However lowly a life is, that is what makes it great."
The Violence of Love complied by James R. Brockman

Seeking the Child Jesus
"We must not seek the child Jesus in the pretty figures of our Christmas cribs. We must seek him among the undernourished children who have gone to bed tonight with nothing to eat, among the poor newsboys who will sleep covered with newspapers in doorways."
The Violence of Love complied by James R. Brockman

"I denounce the absolutizing of wealth. This is the great evil in El Salvador: wealth, private property, as an untouchable absolute. Woe to the one who touches that high tension wire. It burns."
Oscar Romero: Reflections on His Life and Writings edited by Marie Dennis, Renny Golden, and Scott Wright

"Peace is not the product of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.
Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity.
It is right and it is duty."
Peace Prayers edited by Carrie Leadingham, Joann E. Moschella, and Hilary M. Vartanian


Read our review of the 1989 movie Romero starring Raul Julia and rent the film.

Book Excerpts

Read an excerpt on the beauty of the image of God that resides in every person; it is from The Violence of Love complied by James R. Brockman