Saint Oscar Romero

Oscar Romero was the Archbishop of San Salvador and a champion of diversity and social justice in the 20th Century. 

Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador, was deeply motivated by his faith to speak out and act for human rights and social justice, knowing that this brought risks to his own safety. Born on 15 August 1917 in El Salvador, Romero’s life unfolded against the backdrop of a country grappling with social inequality and political turmoil. It was during his time as Archbishop from 1977 to 1980 that St Romero was steadfast in championing the rights of the marginalised in El Salvador and he spoke out against those who committed terrible acts of violence.

He underwent a spiritually profound change when confronted with the harsh realities of the majority of people in El Salvador. There was brutal suppression of dissent by the authorities at the time and a widespread violation of human rights. Romero began to view his role not merely as a spiritual leader but as a “voice for the voiceless”. He once said:

“Each time we look upon the poor, on the farmworkers who harvest the coffee, the sugarcane, or the cotton… remember, there is the face of Christ.” 

In terms of Christian faith, Romero’s significance lies in his resolute defence of the Church’s teachings on human dignity and the preferential option for the poor. In a society marked by deep divisions, Romero consistently spoke out against discrimination and violence, emphasising the inherent dignity of every individual, regardless of their background.  

Every Sunday his sermon was broadcast by radio and the whole country listened. Romero was a CAFOD partner and when his radio station was bombed, CAFOD helped rebuild it. 

In his sermon on 23 March 1980, Romero ordered the army to stop killing people: 

“In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people 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 assassinated while celebrating Mass.  He was canonised by Pope Francis in 2018, and is known as a martyr for justice and a beacon of hope for those striving to create a more inclusive society.


By Deborah Purfield, CAFOD

Oscar Romero’s life is an inspiration and a challenge for us to engage actively in the pursuit of justice and to uphold the dignity of every human being. He imitated His Lord Jesus Christ so closely and was “God-with-skin-on” for his people and for us today. 

Even though he knew his days were numbered, it did not silence his message : 

“If you kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadoran people.” 

This powerful statement reflects Romero’s profound conviction that his commitment to social justice and the defence of the marginalised would endure beyond his physical life.  We are invited to examine our own commitment to justice, compassion, and the transformative power of the Gospel in the world today. 

On this Racial Justice Sunday when we celebrate diversity and embrace the richness of human differences, we honour Romero’s legacy and contribution to the ongoing struggle for a more just and inclusive world.  As Pope Francis said in his video in January 2024  

“There is no need to fear the diversity of charisms in the Church.  Rather, living this diversity should make us rejoice!” 

At CAFOD, we are honoured to have Oscar Romero, our friend and partner, as our patron saint.  He continues to inspire our work today. 

Saint Oscar Romero, pray for us!