Lethbridge continues to become a more multicultural city. The economy is growing and the city has been designated an immigration hub for new Canadians. As a result large numbers of families from Syria, the Philippines, Nepal and sub-Saharan Africa have moved here. All these groups are well represented in St. Paul School. We also have many families from Central America, in general, and El Salvador, in particular. On October 14 they will have a special event to celebrate, the canonisation of Oscar Romero. Oscar Romero, the former Archbishop of San Salvador, is a particular hero of mine. When I taught grade 9 religion at St. Francis Junior High School we spent a lot of time studying his life and how he worked to help the oppressed people of his homeland.
Archbishop Romero was born on August 15, 1917 and died at the hands of an assassin while celebrating mass in San Salvador on March 24, 1980. He was outspoken against military oppression in his country and the role played by the USA during its civil war. The process of canonisation began in 2012 as a result of the intervention of Pope Benedict XVI and his beatification in 2015 drew an estimated 250,000 people. This it is believed to have been the largest religious gathering ever held in Central America.
Some say he would have been canonised earlier but it was felt that he was killed for political reasons as opposed to religious ones. It was assumed that he was exponent of Liberation Theology which “… mixed Marxist social analysis and concepts such as class struggle with religious commitments.” Peruvian Theologian Father Gustavo Gutiérrez, its founder, has repeatedly said that Romero didn’t belong to the movement. He continued to say, “If anything, Archbishop Romero was a traditional person … Not exactly conservative, but ... very pious ...”
On October 14 our families from El Salvador will get the opportunity to say thank you to a man who was willing to give his life for the oppressed of his country. We should also note that he continues to be a model for us today. When we look at the rise of intolerance, greater economic disparity and the discrimination of minorities at home and around the world, his words and actions in support for those in need ring very true.
We also have to think of the tens of thousands of ordinary people who were murdered during that brutal civil war. Many, who remain nameless to us, are remembered by their families and neighbours. Their only crime was to wish for a better life. Also we should remember the many priests and nuns who also gave their lives in service of the poor. Fr. Rutilio Grande, a friend of Oscar Romero, nuns Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan. They too may join Oscar Romero in canonisation.