Archbishop Romero heard the plea for peace – can we?
Cardinal Rodriguez speech
When I first met Oscar Romero, in March 1979, our countries of Honduras and El Salvador were adrift in the sea of violence and dictatorships that gripped Central America at that time.
I had been a bishop for just three months when we met at a conference in Santo Domingo. I was moved by Archbishop Romero’s, simplicity, humility and compassion.
One year later he would be dead, shot down while celebrating the Holy Eucharist. But this was not before he had given a voice to the voiceless and spoken out about the appalling injustices and human rights abuses in El Salvador.
Twenty-nine years after Archbishop Romero’s death we are dedicating the Caritas Internationalis Peacebuilding: Web Toolkit for Trainers to his memory.
We hope that his work lives on in this very modern and 21st Century tool which aims to deepen and expand Caritas’ work in global peacebuilding.
Archbishop Romero once said:
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.
I’d like to add something to this prayer: Peace is development.
Here at Caritas Internationalis, we believe that peace can only be reached through social justice and the practice of virtues that encourage people to live united.
We are never going to have peace as long as poverty is increasing. Globalisation without solidarity is suicidal for the poor.
We have globalised telecommunications and trade…and now, even the banking crisis. Why can we not globalise peace?
It is not by chance that we launch our peacebuilding toolkit in the run up to Easter. Easter is the symbol of unfailing hope, because it is based on Jesus’ victory over sin and death.
Coincidentally, our launch of the toolkit comes two days before the anniversary of Populorum Progressio, Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on development, which is as relevant today as it was 42 years ago when it said:
“The hungry nations of the world cry out to the peoples blessed with abundance. And the Church, cut to the quick by this cry, asks each and every man to hear his brother's plea and answer it lovingly.”
Oscar Romero heard this cry and died while answering it.
He was not the only one who lost his life answering humanity’s desperate cry for peace. My friend Bishop Geraldi from Guatemala was assassinated after publishing a document on human rights abuses. And my former student, Salvador Ramos, was killed after witnessing torture and human rights abuses.
These men are forgotten now, but by remembering Archbishop Oscar Romero, the memories of these men and all the other victims of wars and injustice are kept alive as we work towards a lasting peace.
Archbishop Romero was a humble man. He did not have any political power just moral power. The moral authority of the Church is now needed more than ever to overcome injustice and conflict .
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