Pope Francis on Sunday canonized the Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, declaring him a new saint alongside Pope Paul VI and  5 others. The Holy Father praised Romero for disregarding his own life “to be close to the poor and to his people”.

Archbishop Romero was murdered in 1980 for speaking out against military oppression at the beginning of a civil war in El Salvador, a country stricken by poverty, inequality, emigration and violence. The war lasted more than a decade leaving 75,000 people dead.

As the violence in El Salvador continued, Romero continued to speak out. Every Sunday his sermon was broadcast on radio. The whole country listened. Romero’s life was often threatened.

On 23 March 1980 in his homily, Romero ordered the army to stop killing people: “In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering person whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I beg you, I implore you, I order you, in the name of God, stop the repression!”. The next day, he was shot by a gunman whilst celebrating mass.

Here are some quotes from the brand new Saint to inspire us:

⇒“We must not seek the child Jesus in the pretty figures of our Christmas cribs. We must seek him among the undernourished children who have gone to bed at night with nothing to eat, among the poor newsboys who will sleep covered with newspapers in doorways.”- (December 24, 1979)

⇒”If one day, they took our radio station away from us, closed the newspaper or didn’t let us speak; if they killed all our priests and the bishop too, then each one of you would have to be a microphone for God. Each one of you would have to be a messenger, a prophet.”

⇒“The Church, entrusted with the earth’s glory, believes that each person is the Creator’s image and that everyone who tramples it offends God. As a holy defender of God’s rights and of his images, the Church must cry out. Whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being, whoever outrages a human being abuses God’s image, and the Church takes as its own that cross, that martyrdom.”

⇒“In the heart of every man, there is a small intimate room, where God comes down to talk alone with a man. And that is where man decides his own destiny, his own role in the world. If every one of us that are so troubled, at this time, enter this small room and, from there, we listen to the voice of the Lord, who speaks to us in our own conscience, we could do so much to improve the environment, the society, the family in which we live.” (July 10, 1977)

 ⇒Those who, in the Biblical phrase, would save their lives – that is, those who want to get along, who don’t want commitments, who don’t want to get into problems, who want to stay outside of a situation that demands the involvement of all of us – they will lose their lives. What a terrible thing, to have lived quite comfortably, with no suffering, not getting involved in problems, quite tranquil, quite settled, with good connections politically, economically, socially—lacking nothing, having everything, to what good? They will lose their lives. But those, who for love of God, uproot themselves and accompany the people and go with the poor in their suffering and become incarnated and feel like their own the pain, the abuse – they will secure their lives because the Father will reward them. (April 1, 1979

ACN Malta