March 24th marks thirty-eight years since Archbishop Oscar Romero was killed by an assassin’s bullet as he celebrated Mass in El Salvador.
Earlier this month the Vatican announced news of his canonization and Trócaire believes it is a fitting tribute to an extraordinary man whose life still influences many working for human rights around the world.
Eamonn Meehan, Trócaire’s Executive Director, said, “Archbishop Romero was a friend to Trócaire and his leadership, conviction and compassion still influences Trócaire’s values and our work today. An example of this influence was the launch of Trócaire’s ‘Romero Awards’.
Launched in October, these awards highlight the efforts of people in Ireland and across the world to raise awareness of human rights violations and to support those who cannot defend themselves.
The awards will be presented in August 2018 as part of the World Meeting of Families celebration and I think it is poignant that the first awards will be given to recipients in the same year that Archbishop Romero’s canonization has been announced.”
Archbishop Oscar Romero became the voice of oppressed people through his powerful work for justice during the 1970’s. He rallied against the political and military human rights abuses of its own citizens and this work ultimately cost him his life.
In 1979 Trócaire began funding the El Salvador Human Rights Commission, which was founded by the Archbishop in response to the shocking murder of 8,000 people. Trócaire continues to fund human rights work across Central America to this day.
Archbishop Romero consistently denounced the terrorisation of the people, advocating for social and economic reforms. His murder in 1979 was a reprisal for his unflinching defence of human rights.
Bishop Eamonn Casey, then chairman of Trócaire, attended his funeral and narrowly escaped injury when members of a death squad opened fire on the huge crowds that had gathered outside the Cathedral. Bishop Casey tried to bring people to safety inside the Cathedral, spending almost two hours with the sick and injured.
Eamonn Meehan says there has been a very positive reaction to the awards since they were launched. “There are two categories of award open to people here at home: the Family Award and Schools & Youth Award. The Family Award will provide an avenue to learn about the lives of other families around the world where Trócaire works – their daily lives, the issues they face and their hopes and dreams for the future.
The Family Award aims to complement the ‘Amoris’ preparation programme for the World Meeting of Families.
The Schools & Youth Award encourages young people to examine effective forms of communication to raise awareness of Trócaire’s work, just as Archbishop Romero used the radio to highlight injustices in El Salvador.”
“By taking part in the ‘Romero Awards’, and indeed the World Meeting of Families, we are hoping people in Ireland will see the developing world not merely as ‘the world’s poor’ but as families with love, fears and hopes just like them. Participants will have a renewed empathy with the world’s poorest people and feel a sense of responsibility toward them and solidarity with them, much as Oscar Romero himself did,” said Eamonn Meehan.
To find out more about Trócaire’s ‘Romero Awards’ visit www.trocaire.org/getinvolved/romeroaward