We were incredibly fortunate to hear a giant of liberation theology give a lecture as part of a weekend of events at the University of Central America commemorating Romero's assassination. I actually was in a separate room from the lecture in order to have earphones with translation. Others in our group wanted to be in the actual auditorium, but agreed that after an hour and a half of lecture in Spanish, they missed out. My group watched on a huge screen.
Father Sobrino would have been murdered by soldiers in 1989 along with the six Jesuit colleagues with whom he lived, but he was in Spain on a speaking tour. Just a little reminder: government soldiers came in the middle of the night and dragged the six priests out onto the lawn and shot them in the head - claiming their were the brains of the guerrilla movement. We saw a display of their blood soaked clothes and a Bible that had been cut in half by automatic rifle fire. Soldiers also went to the room of their housekeeper and daughter and murdered them too. Among the most disturbing images of the whole trip, one that is still vivid in my mind, are pictures in an photo album at the Romero Center of brains laying strewn around on the grass. They keep this gruesome record for public display in order to Never Forget.
So, on to the lecture. Sobrino told us that after the first priest was murdered in 1977, (Father Rutilio Grande, whose grave we visited. A young boy and old man were in the car with him and also killed) Romero, as Archbishop, declared that that weekend there would only be one mass spoken in the entire country. At the Cathedral in San Salvador. Other church leaders objected and created a controversy. "Mass is for the glorification of God," conservatives argued. They were on the side of the government which didn't want too much attention paid to this atrocity. In return, Romero quoted 4th century bishop Iraneus: "The glory of God is the human alive. And therefore, the glory of God is that the poor live." Romero prevailed.
A couple of other quotes from lecture:
"One must accept conflicts that come from fidelity to God."
"A martyr is consequently merciful." This one has particularly stayed with me. The word martyr is used in public frequently in El Salvador. It's a word that most of us have difficulty with, especially given the terrorism of our current age. But Salvadorans consider the word necessary when describing the acts of terror against them and to honor those who died speaking out for the poor.