30th anniversary of Jesuit martyrs in El Salvador

16 November 2019
A composite image of the El Salvador martyrs. Images: Ignatian Solidarity Network.


16 November 2019 marks 30 years since six Jesuits and two of their household family at the Central American University in San Salvador, El Salvador, were murdered during the Salvadoran Civil War. America Magazine, a publication of the Jesuits, has published the homily delivered by Joseph A. O’Hare SJ, the former editor-in-chief of the magazine, at a memorial Mass for the victims on 22 November 1989.

The occasion for our liturgy is the tragedy of last Thursday, Nov. 16, when six Jesuits and two of their household family at the Central American University in San Salvador were brutally murdered and mutilated in the early morning hours.

We mourn not only for them, but for all the victims of this wasteful war that for more than 10 years has bled a tiny, tortured country. We mourn for the 70,000 people of El Salvador who have died in this war and the hundreds of thousands who have been displaced by the fighting. We remember the martyrs that preceded last Thursday’s victims, Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit assassinated in 1977, the same year that a right-wing paramilitary group ordered all Jesuits to leave the country or face a sentence of death. We remember Archbishop Oscar Romero, struck down by an assassin’s bullet in 1980 while celebrating Mass.

We remember also the four American women missionaries who were kidnapped, assaulted and murdered by military forces in December of 1980.

Our celebration today, then, is marked by a deep sense of sorrow at the loss of human life and the cruelty of 10 years of fruitless fighting. But our sorrow is based on a strong sense of solidarity with the people and the church of El Salvador.

It is a solidarity based on a common faith in a God of justice, on a common mission that all Jesuits share with the Jesuits of El Salvador and on the common identity that unites a Catholic university in El Salvador with all Catholic universities throughout the world.

Our sense of solidarity, however, also arises from the more troubling fact that the national policies of our two countries have been, for good or ill, inextricably linked. And finally, our solidarity with the people of El Salvador is based on fundamental Christian hope, which declares that no matter how dark the signs of death, in the end the radiance of life will prove victorious.

To read the rest of the homily, In solidarity with the slain Jesuits of El Salvador, click here.


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