On Saturday 20 March, over 500 people from many different Christian traditions came together in York Minster for the Ecumenical Service of Commemoration for the 30th Anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero’s Assassination which took place on 24 March 1980.
Our service was led by His Eminence Cardinal Keith O’Brien Archbishop of Edinburgh. Rev Dr John Sentamu Archbishop of York preached the sermon. Archbishop Sentamu quoted a child when he said that he had asked a young boy what he thought a Saint was? The boy replied “A saint is someone who lets the light shine through them and the light comes from God” Archbishop Romero was one such person. Our two Archbishops were joined by Rt Rev John Rawsthorne Bishop of Hallam and Chair of CAFOD, Rt Rev Terence Patrick Drainey Bishop of Middlesbrough along with leaders from other Christian denominations and Ambassador of El Salvador to the Court of St James, His Excellency Werner Romero, who’s father worked as a journaslist with Archbishop Romero.
The service was coordinated by the Romero Trust, members of the Carmelite Family with support of staff from CAFOD Middlesbrough Office. During the service we listened to a recording of Archbishop Romero’s last homily translated through subtitles:
“I want to make a special plea to the men of the army, and, specifically, to the rank-and-file of the Guardia Civil, of the police, to those in the barracks. Brothers, we are part of the same people. You are killing your own brother and sister peasants and when you are faced with an order to kill given by aman, the law of God must prevail; the law that says: Thou shalt not kill. No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God. no one has to obey an immoral law. And it is time that you recover your consciences and obey your consciences over an order that is sinful. The church, defender of human rights, of the law of God, of human dignity, of the human being, cannot remain silent in the face of such abomination. We want the government to take seriously the idea that the reforms are meaningless when they are stained with so much blood. In the name of God, then, and in the name of this suffering people whose laments rise up to heaven each day more tumultuously, I plead with you, I pray you, I order you, in the name of God: stop the repression!” (March 23, 1980 – Through the Year With OscarRomero-Daily Meditations. Translated by Irene B Hodgson 2006, Darton Longman and Todd, London).
Carmelite Friar, Rev Tony Lester read out Romero’s last words as he celebrated Mass at the Divina Providencia Chapel on the one year anniversary of the death of newspaper editor Jorge Pinto’s mother on 24 March 1980:
“That this immolated body and this Blood sacrificed for humankind, may nourish our bodies and our blood in suffering and in pain, like Christ, not for its own sake, but rather to give the concepts of justice and peace to our people. Let us join together then, intimately in faith and hope in this moment of prayer for Dona Sarita and for ourselves…” [at this moment the shot rang out]