Cardinal calls Salvadorans to reflect on true meaning of martyrdom

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The celebrations of the 100th
anniversary Blessed Oscar Romero’s birth should be a time to reflect on what it
really means to call someone a martyr, said Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez of
San Salvador.

Too many people in El Salvador “continue to call
martyrs those who picked up arms and died following an ideal” in the country’s
12-year-long civil war, the cardinal wrote in an article for L’Osservatore
Romano, the Vatican newspaper.

The country’s real martyrs, the cardinal said, “never
stained their hands with blood,” and they were “men and women who
strove to love God and their neighbors.”

The real martyrs of El Salvador are Blessed Romero,
“the assassinated priests and the four U.S. women — three religious and a
laywoman — whose lives were taken in December 1980,” he said, referring
to Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke, Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel
and Jean Donovan, a laywoman.

In addition, he wrote, “we all have a debt that we must
begin to settle as soon as possible. We are obliged out of gratitude to God and
love for the truth to redeem the memory of hundreds of anonymous martyrs, most
of whom were humble campesinos.”

“For us, martyr means witness,” he said. “We
must walk with them in the name of Christ.”

The article by Cardinal Rosa Chavez was published Aug. 10 in
the Italian edition of L’Osservatore Romano, but was written for the
newspaper’s Spanish edition, which published a special issue for Blessed
Romero’s birthday Aug. 15.

The cardinal began his article thanking Pope Francis for
naming Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago, Chile, as his personal envoy the
celebrations of Blessed Romero’s anniversary.

In the nomination letter, he said, the pope described
Blessed Romero as “bishop and martyr, illustrious pastor and witness to
the Gospel and defender of the church and human dignity.” The pope also noted that as a priest and as a bishop, Blessed Romero worked for “justice, reconciliation and peace.”

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