ROME — Like St. Oscar Romero, the six Jesuit priests and their two companions who were brutally murdered in the waning years of El Salvador’s civil war gave witness to the Gospel and remained close to the poor until their deaths, a Vatican official said.
In a letter written to mark the 29th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Jesuit priests and their companions Nov. 16, Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugee Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said Romero’s death “impacted and inspired our fellow martyrs who we celebrate today.”
The six priests — Jesuit Fathers Ignacio Ellacuria, Ignacio Martin-Baro, Segundo Montes, Amando Lopez, Juan Ramon Moreno and Joaquin Lopez — as well as their housekeeper, Elba Ramos, and her 16-year-old daughter Celina were executed in 1989 when Salvadoran army soldiers stormed their residence at the Central American University in San Salvador.
The martyrs, who were murdered nine years after Romero was killed while celebrating Mass, were believed to have been targeted due to their outspoken calls for a cease-fire between government and rebel forces.
According to the 1993 report of the U.N. Truth Commission on El Salvador, the Jesuit-run Central American University, also known as UCA, was accused by government authorities of being “the center of operations” for the FMLN rebel group.
The authorities also publicly stated “that the Jesuits were fully identified with subversive movements.”
In his message to the Jesuit community of the UCA, Czerny recalled visiting the university on the 10th anniversary of Romero’s death, not long after the murder of the Jesuit priests.
“After the assassination of our companions,” he said, “I read a phrase on a poster that read: ‘We want bishops like Archbishop Romero.’ How alive and timely these words are for me today!”
Recalling Pope Francis’s homily during the recent canonization of Romero, Czerny said the slain archbishop’s closeness to the poor “with a heart magnetized by Jesus” was an example followed by the martyred Jesuits.
“Let us pray for the same ‘magnetization’ for Jesus and to be close to the poor,” he said. “Let us not forget to pray for their intercession, for our Pope Francis, for the entire Society of Jesus and for the many Central Americans fleeing their countries to go north.”