Oscar Romero, the former Archbishop of San Salvador who is due to be canonized this Sunday (14th) at a ceremony in the Vatican, is still a guiding light for human rights defenders everywhere according to overseas development agency Trócaire.
Archbishop Romero consistently denounced the terror inflicted on the people of El Salvador during the country's civil war. He was murdered for advocating for social and economic reforms to benefit the country's poor.
"Trócaire had a very close association with Archbishop Romero," explains Trócaire CEO Caoimhe de Barra. "In 1979 we began funding the El Salvador Human Rights Commission, which had been founded by the Archbishop, in response to the unlawful killing of 8,000 people.
"The Archbishop used archdiocesan radio to inform the largely illiterate population of their rights. Following the bombing of the station’s radio transmitter in 1980, we received a letter from the Archbishop asking for funding to restore the broadcasting unit. Just two weeks after writing this letter, Archbishop Romero was murdered while saying mass in San Salvador. His murder was a reprisal for his unflinching defence of human rights and he paid the ultimate price for that defence."
Today, Oscar Romero's bravery and commitment to social justice continues to guide Trócaire's work.
"Since Trócaire’s foundation in 1973, human rights in Central America has been at the core of the organisations work," said de Barra. "Highlighting the repression of the poor and marginalised, and the brutality which is often inflicted on them by landowners and political elites, has been a cornerstone of what we do in that region.
"Archbishop Romero’s values, conviction and compassion still influence Trócaire today and help guide us in our work. An example of this influence was the setting up of Trócaire’s ‘Romero Awards’. 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. Sligo-native Sr Bridget Tighe was honoured with Trócaire’s inaugural Romero International Award at a ceremony in August in recognition of her humanitarian work in Gaza and the Middle East. In addition, the Romero Fund is a fund established by Trócaire to support human rights programmes around the world."
"Our staff around the world, and particularly in central America, will be thinking of Archbishop Romero this Sunday as he is canonized."
Trócaire will hold a remembrance mass for Oscar Romero on Wednesday November 7th at 7pm in St. Joseph's Oratory, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth.