Vatican City, Feb 21, 2015 / 06:53 am America/Denver (CNA).
Although liberation theology proponents visited Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero and left him their books, he was never swayed by their ideas, says the late archbishop’s personal secretary.
In statements to CNA, Msgr. Jesus Delgado, former secretary of Archbishop Romero, said that the archbishop’s murder on March 24, 1980, “was in opposition to what he preached, which is what the Church asks of all: conversion to Jesus, a personal encounter with Jesus.”
Archbishop Romero, “like the Second Vatican Council, called for a personal encounter with Christ Jesus, which implied a preferential option for the poor, because Jesus opted for the poor to save us all.”
Oscar Romero y Galdamez was Archbishop of San Salvador from 1977 until March 24, 1980, when he was shot while saying Mass. He was a vocal critic of the human rights abuses of the repressive Salvadoran government, and he spoke out on behalf of the poor and the victims of the government.
No one has been prosecuted for his assassination, but right-wing death squads are suspected.
On Feb. 3, Pope Francis authorized the promulgation of a decree recognizing the martyrdom of Archbishop Romero, paving the way for his beatification.
The theologians of the congregation for saints had unanimously recognized Archbishop Romero's 1980 assassination as a martyrdom on Jan. 8. The Pope's approval was the last step needed before Archbishop Romero could be beatified.
At the same time, the Pope also recognized the martyrdoms of three priests killed in Peru by the Shining Path, a Communist guerilla group.
Msgr. Delgado responded to years of allegations that there was a connection between Archbishop Romero and liberation theology, a controversial school of thought that developed in Latin America in the 1950s, which has been criticized as a Marxist interpretation of the Gospel.
“When I wrote his life story, I looked over his library. Obviously, the liberation theology proponents always visited him and left him their books,” Msgr. Delgado said.
“I saw them, and they were like brand new, he never even opened them. He never read them, he never looked at them. On the other hand, all the books of the fathers of the Church were worn and were the source of his inspiration.”
Archbishop Romero “knew nothing about Liberation Theology, he did not want to know about it. He adhered faithfully to the Catholic Church and to above all to the teachings of the Popes.”
His theology was focused on the presence of God among the poor, “which we could describe like this: ‘God present and living with the poor and walking with the poor’,” Msgr. Delgado said.
“This was the point that his rich friends did not understand, and it’s not that they didn’t want to understand, but at that time we were immersed in the struggle been the Soviet Union and the United States.”
Archbishop Romero “was pulled by one side and the other, and he wanted to remain and always did remain on the same path: preaching the word of God and calling us all to conversion to Christ and with Christ to the poorest people.”
Those on the left that relied on Archbishop Romero did so for their own objectives, he added. “They threatened to kill him because, they said, he blessed the coup d’etat and the agricultural reform proposed by the 1979 coup d’etat.” For this reason, “they labeled him a supporter of the reform and not of the revolution and they sentenced him to death,” Msgr. Delgado stated.
“He lived Christmas of 1979 in fear of the flames that were threatening him from the right and the left.”
“He was killed on March 24 and I always say that either side could have killed him, both the left and the right. They hated him for one reason or another. Afterwards, the Truth Commission proved that it was the right that killed him,” Msgr. Delgado said.
The problem, he continued, is that Archbishop Romero was manipulated and used by proponents of both the left and right, inaccurately held up as a “battle flag” for ideologies with which he did not agree.
Asked why the Vatican received negative reports for years about Romero, Msgr. Delgado said, “The news that came in was negative and the Popes did not have a good understanding of the situation in Latin America. They were very prudent in response.”
“Thank God a Pope has come along who knows this situation in Latin America well and who unblocked everything, opening the path to justice and truth,” Msgr. Delgado stated.