Solidaridad Receives Letter from Saint: “Be a Voice for Those Who Do Not Have a Voice”

Just weeks before his assassination, former Archbishop of San Salvador (El Salvador) Oscar Romero wrote Solidaridad a letter thanking the organization for its support in buying radio equipment to broadcast his services to a larger audience. Shortly after, Romero was gunned down as he was celebrating Mass in San Salvador on 24 March 1980. Pope Francis recently canonized the archbishop in an official ceremony on 14 October 2018, almost 40 years after his death.

Oscar Romero sent this letter to Solidaridad just before he was murdered.

In the letter he expresses his gratitude to Solidaridad, but also describes how difficult it has become to do his work. He writes:

Thank you for the support to the repair costs for our destroyed radio equipment. In a country like ours, where the truth is hidden or deformed to the needy majorities, your generous support to get our radio back on the air means that Solidarad will be identified with our pastoral social communication to be a voice for those who do not have a voice. – Archbishop Romero

First saint of El Salvador

Oscar Romero will become the first Salvadoran saint. He was martyred while giving Mass in a hospital chapel, a day after telling an army consisting largely of peasants that they were killing their own people. “No soldier is obliged to obey an order that is contrary to the will of God,” he said.

He was shot through the heart by gunmen linked to a right-wing death squad while celebrating Mass in which he said, “One must not love oneself so much as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us, and those who fend off danger will lose their lives.”

Romero on the radio

A champion for peace among the poor

Romero was outspoken against military oppression during his country’s bloody civil war in the 1980s, and also of the role the United States played in it. His death is considered by the Catholic Church to have been in “odium fidei,” meaning in hatred of the faith.

In today’s world, it is not hard to imagine that Archbishop Romero would be fighting for the sugarcane cutters in the region who are suffering from an epidemic of fatal kidney disease due to their working conditions.

“Deep down in my heart, I was happy and thankful: the sanctification of Romero is a signal of hope to me. What he did, what others took up after his death, wasn’t nonsense or a quickly forgotten movement, it was an expression of what evangelism and concern for the world’s poor truly means if you take it seriously. And that will never be ‘out of fashion’”, said theologian Mario Coolen, who discovered the letter in Dutch archives and was Solidaridad’s project leader in the region at the time of Romero’s death.

Funeral procession for Archbishop Romero (1980)

Romero was beatified in San Salvador on 23 May 2015 in a ceremony that drew an estimated 250,000 people, believed to have been the largest religious gathering ever held in Central America.

The Glory of God is that there is life for the poor. – Archbishop Romero upon receiving his honorary doctorate from the University of Leuven (Belgium) just months before his assassination.

Learn more about Solidaridad programmes in Central America.

Read more about the life and legacy of Archbishop Romero: