Thirty years on since the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, parishioners across Reading gathered together last Wednesday night to remember the life of one of the world’s most important human rights activists. In a special Mass marking the anniversary, the parish of St James, Laura and Lynda from the local CAFOD office and our diocesan representative for Pax Christi, Anne Dodd, gathered together to celebrate Romero’s life.
Canon John O’Shea, parish priest at St James’ who presided over the Mass said, “We owe so much to Oscar Romero. He not only gave his life in his cathedral church but through his writings and sermons challenges us to make the needs of the poor and powerless a top priority”.
On March 24, 1980, a group of unidentified gunmen entered a small chapel in San Salvador while Archbishop Oscar Romero was celebrating Mass and shot him to death. He was assassinated for opposing a brutal military regime in his country, El Salvador. It is his life and example of Christian sacrifice that marks him out as one of the greatest Christian leaders of the twentieth century. His campaign for human rights in El Salvador in Central America won him many national and international admirers as well as a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.
However, it also won him enemies. Romero had foreseen the danger of assassination, but this did not deter him. “As a Christian,” he said, “I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people.”
At this special Mass, marking the anniversary of Romero’s death, Marius Hopley and the parish Folk Group provided the music and sang beautifully, whilst members of the parish Social Justice group read both the first reading and bidding prayers. Everyone prayed for the peoples of Central America and El Salvador and for all people of faith; that we may all respond to situations of injustice, conflict, inequality and poverty in the light of our belief.
Canon John O’Shea ended Mass with a special quotation from Oscar Romero:
‘It helps now and then to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision….
We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation in realising that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between
the master builder and the worker.
We are the workers, not the master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not of our own.
Many stayed behind after Mass to watch a couple of short films on Romero’s life. It was a great opportunity to pay tribute to his life, which continues to be a source of endless inspiration for CAFOD’s work today and indeed for many Christians across the world.
Our thanks go to Canon John O’Shea, the parish Social Justice group, Kevin Boyle, Marius Hopley and the Folk Group and all those who organised everything so beautifully on the night. Thank you all!
For more information on Romero, including links to videos about his life, please go to http://www.cafod.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/human-rights/romero-30-years-on
The powerpoint used on the night can be downloaded from here Romero Powerpoint