Here is a translation of Pope Francis’ address today at the Vatican to participants in a pilgrimage from El Salvador to Rome, in sign of thanksgiving for the beatification of Archbishop Oscar A. Romero.
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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Priests, Men and Women Religious, Seminarians,
Good day. I receive your visit today with much joy and, on giving you my most cordial welcome, I also wish to express to you my affection for all the sons of the beloved Salvadorian nation.
I thank Monsignor Jose Luis Escobar, President of the Episcopal Conference, for his kind words. I thank all of you very much for your warm and enthusiastic presence.
Joy brings you to Rome for the recognition, as Blessed, of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, good Pastor, full of love of God and close to his brothers, who, living the dynamism of the Beatitudes, went so far as to give his life in a violent way while celebrating the Eucharist, Sacrifice of Supreme Love, sealing with his own blood the Gospel he was proclaiming.
From the beginning of the life of the Church, we Christians, persuaded by Christ’s words, who reminds us that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone”(John 12:24), have always had the conviction that the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians, as Tertullian said. Blood of a great number of Christians that also today, continues to be shed dramatically in the field of the world, with the certain hope that it will fructify in an abundant harvest of holiness, of justice, reconciliation and love of God. But let us remember that one is not born a martyr. It is a grace that the Lord grants, and which concerns in a certain way all the baptized. Archbishop Romero recalled: “We must be prepared to die for our faith, even if the Lord does not grant us this honor … To give one’s life does not only mean to be killed. To give one’s life, to have the spirit of martyrdom, is to dedicate it to duty, in the silence of daily life; to give one’s life little by little” (General Audience, January 7, 2015).
A martyr, in fact, is not one that remains relegated in the past, a lovely image that adorns our churches and that we remember with a certain nostalgia. No, a martyr is a brother, a sister, who continues to accompany us in the mystery of the communion of Saints and who, united to Christ, is not indifferent to our earthly pilgrimage, to our sufferings, to our anxieties. In the recent history of this beloved country, Monsignor Romero’s witness has been added to that of other brothers and sisters, such as Father Rutilio Grande, who, not fearing to lose their life, have won it and have been constituted intercessors of their people before the living God, who lives forever and ever, and who has in His hands the keys of death and of Hades (cf. Revelation 1:18). All these brothers are a treasure and a founded hope for the Church and for Salvadorian society. The impact of their commitment is still perceived in our days. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, they were configured with Christ, as so many witnesses of the faith of all times.
Dear Salvadorian friends, with only a few weeks to go before the beginning of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Monsignor Romero’s example constitutes for his beloved nation a stimulus and renewed endeavor for the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, announcing it in such a way that all people will know it, so that the merciful love of the Divine Savior invades the heart and history of its good people. The holy people of God, pilgrimaging in El Salvador, still has ahead of it a series of difficult tasks; it continues to need, as the rest of the world, the evangelizing proclamation that will enable it to witness, in the communion of the one Church of Christ, a genuine Christian life, that will help it to foster the promotion and development of a nation that seeks true justice, genuine peace and the reconciliation of hearts.
On this occasion, with so much affection for each one of you here present and for all Salvadorians, I make my own the sentiments of Blessed Monsignor Romero, who with founded hope longed to see the arrival of the happy moment in which the terrible tragedy of the suffering of so many of our brothers because of hatred, violence and injustice, would disappear. May the Lord, with a rain of mercy and kindness, with a torrent of graces, convert all hearts and the beautiful homeland that He has given you, and which bears the name of the Divine Savior, may it become a country where all feel redeemed and brothers, without differences, because we are all one in Christ Our Lord (cf. Monsignor Oscar Romero, Homily in Aguilares, June 19, 1977).
I would also like to add something that perhaps we have neglected. Monsignor Romero’s martyrdom was not precise at the moment of his death; it was a martyrdom-testimony, of previous suffering, of previous persecution, up to his death. But also after because, once dead – I was a young priest and I was a witness of this – he was defamed, calumniated, soiled, that is, his martyrdom continued even by his brothers in the priesthood and the episcopate. I am not speaking from hearsay; I heard those things. In other words, it is nice to see him like this: a man who continues to be a martyr. Well now I do not think anyone dares. However, after giving his life, he continued to give it, letting himself be scourged by all those misunderstandings and calumnies. That gives me strength, God only knows. Only God knows the history of persons and how many times, persons who have already given their life or who have died, are continued to be scourged with the hardest stone that exists in the world: the tongue.
Through the intercession of Our Lady of Peace, whose feast we celebrated a few days ago, I invoke God’s blessing upon you and all the dear sons and daughters of that blessed land.
Thank you very much.
[Original text: Spanish]
[Translation by ZENIT]