An underground revolutionary organization of church people and workers hailed the canonization of a Salvadoran Archbishop known in his lifetime as a staunch human rights defender and for which he was martyred.
The Christians for National Liberation (CNL), an allied organization of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, in a statement expressed its “heartfelt jubilation” on the canonization of Archbishop Oscar Romero to the Vatican’s roster of Saints.
Romero was canonized by Pope Francis in the Vatican last October 14 as the first Salvadoran Saint. He was gunned down during Mass in a hospital chapel on March 24, 1980, a day after telling the Salvadoran Army that “They are killing our own people.”
“No soldier is obliged to obey an order that is contrary to the will of God. One must not love oneself so much as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us. And those who fend off danger will lose their lives,” Romero also said on the eve of his martyrdom.
Romero was outspoken during his country’s bloody civil war in the 1980’s, and also against the role the United States played in his country’s tumultuous history.
In a letter he sent to US President Jimmy Carter in February of 1980, he urged the US not to send military aid to El Salvador.
“You call yourdelf Christian. If you are really Christian, please stop sending military aid to the military here,” Romero told Carter.
The CNL drew parallelism with Romero’s struggle for human rights in El Salvador with the Philippine militant church peoples’ struggle for social transformation, for which many are also killed and persecuted.
“CNL through the years, and up to the present, has a long list of martyrs, of church people killed, tortured, detained and harassed while serving the poor,” the group said.
“CNL members have participated in different forms of struggle, including the armed struggle, and devoted and gave up their lives for the revolution,” the group added.
CNL said that in the hearts of the ordinary Filipino faithful, their martyrs are saints just like St. Oscar Romero, as they offer their lives for the basic masses.
CNL said the sacrifice of their martyrs and members is the meaning of holiness in a world of injustice and oppression, as it challenged church people to work for the hoped “new heaven and new earth” by being one with the poor, deprived, oppressed and exploited. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)