Oscar Elizalde Prada: "El Salvador is a land of martyrs, It is a land of Monsignor Romero "

By Cindy Castillo – Cartagena, Colombia

Photos: Oscar Augusto Elizalde Prada

During one of his most memorable homilies, Jesuit Ignacio Ellacuría who was also killed in the development of the civil war in El Salvador, express: "With Monsignor Romero, God passed through El Salvador ". And passing is still being felt almost 40 years after his death, and not only in the Central American land, also it felt in other parts of the world, with his message of love of neighbor and unity, nobody better than him to bear witness to an unshakable faith that even led him to give up his own life on the altar.

Oscar Elizalde Prada
Oscar Elizalde Prada

The Martyrdom of Monsignor has been the subject of admiration, research and example for countless people. Such is the case of Oscar Augusto Elizalde Prada, He born in the city of Bucaramanga, Santander department, In colombia, and who-from an early age- he was born concern the life and work of the martyr (and soon Santo) Monsignor Romero.

Colombian teaches at the Universidad La Salle, with a major in Religious Sciences. It holds a Master in Management and Development of the University La Salle, and this year completed a PhD in Social Communication at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande Do Sul, in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

At present, Oscar coordinates the "Nueva Vida Digital" Digital Portal, In colombia, which is part of the New Life news network of the Catholic Church, as "a view from the church, a look of faith from Latin America, from Colombia, especially".

Likewise, It develops as Director of Communications and Marketing at the University La Salle, and it is part of some networks, including Continental Network of Amerindian, in which part of the coordination team for Latin America. It recently held the Third Continental Congress of Theology in San Salvador, The Savior.

Voice of Diaspora spoke with this Colombian to learn about their experience of Monsignor Romero.

When it was the first time I heard of Monsignor Romero and what impression I had about?

It was when I was 15 years and he was still at school. It was in a religious education class in which the teacher talked about the theme of "prophecy" and introduced us to the movie starring Raul Julia, entitled: “Romero”. I think it was my first encounter, in which I discovered a dimension of prophethood so far I did not know, and it was from the life and work of Monsignor Romero.

At that time, I became interested by the Archbishop of San Salvador, who gave his life 24 March 1980. One year later, I found the book of Jon Sobrino, Monsignor Romero also, and I think my interest began to grow, to the point that I started very interested not only the life of Romero, but the context in which ministered in the church, in those convulsive years of dictatorship in El Salvador. And with the time, I became interested also for the lives of other Salvadoran martyrs, as Rutilio Grande and the martyrs of the UCA. I think that passion to know who he was, and the impact of the life of Monsignor Romero has to do with my search for meaning and commitment to the poor. Monsignor Romero I found a true witness of the gospel embodied in our Latin American Church.

You conducted a study or thesis on Monsignor Romero. What motivated you to do this?, What was it about?

When I studied theology at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, and I presented me the opportunity to start doing my thesis work, He motivated me the subject of Monsignor Romero, because I discovered that his pastoral letters are a treasure for the church that has not been exploited enough. In this way, the subject interested me even more. basically, I wanted to show is the contribution of the pastoral letters and pastoral thought of Monsignor Romero for the Latin American Church. I can say I developed my thesis in a 85%, but finally I did not finish, because at that time I took a job in Latin America in the CLAR (Latin American Confederation of Religious) and good, I immersed myself in this world also helping a lot in training and in the edition of a magazine, and I could not conclude this final phase.

What assessment deserved his study at that time?, Were there any detail or peculiarity to remember?

What I remember most about that study, is that published an article, just for New Life, for the time of the beatification of Monsignor. It was an almost accidental ethnographic detail, I found when I first visited the tomb of Archbishop Romero for the twenty-fifth anniversary. It was a letter from a girl 16 years, I was on the tomb of Monsignor. In her, told him that although he had not known in life, I had met a lot from him through his family, and Monsignor Romero offered his desire to someday be a doctor to help the poor, as he did. I have to say, that letter moved me very much. I remember it was the eve of Pentecost, and I discovered that also was part of a second generation not met Monsignor Romero, however we receive the testimony of many people and especially many Salvadorans practically canonized the day of his martyrdom. Perhaps, Pedro was Casaldáliga, which best he expressed in his poem "San Romero of America". I can say that experience, that first encounter with the Salvadoran people is what most feature of this study. Not only discover the pastoral letters of Monsignor from your text, but also from its context and from the pretexts that caused has had the courage to write those pages that also guided his church at such a crucial time of persecution. Which it was final time to take a stand in favor of the poorest, and those options transcended, even in future generations and over recent years. On my last visit to El Salvador I recognize that increasingly Monsignor lives in his village.

How many times have you been in El Salvador and how was that experience?

I have had the grace to be in El Salvador on three occasions, the first was for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Monsignor Romero, when a conference was held in the UCA. The second time for an event by HPLC, and in this one 2018, when I had the opportunity to be part of the team that made the Third Continental Congress of Theology. I have to say I've done the route of the martyrs in the three opportunities, comprising the hospitalito, the chapel where Archbishop gave his life, his house is now a museum and its crypt.

What was your impression when you know that Bishop would be beatified and then begin the process of canonization?

That justice was doing a clamor coming from the Salvadoran land, nourished from the land of the blood of the martyrs as Bishop and as Rutilio Grande, Ellacuría and his colleagues at the UCA, and many others who died at crucial moments as the Eucharist when he died Romero. My impression was a deep joy and gladness, feeling the clamor of a people is being heard fairly. We must also recognize that it has been a Latin American pope, who had the sensitivity to proclaim what many felt in the heart, Monsignor was not only a martyr, it was blessed and holy, and that was the gift of love to his people what prompted him to carry out the project of Jesus to the end, even giving their own lives.

Previously, in charge of Latin American affairs at the Vatican was Monsignor Alfonso Lopez Trujillo of Colombia, who at the time recommended that it was not desirable to open the case of Monsignor Romero to investigate whether it was possible or not canonize, What do you think about this?

The role played by Monsignor Alfonso Lopez Trujillo against the Romero case, He did feel the weight of the radical positions and a way to condemn the church. They were not very lucid times for the Latin American Church. When this weight came from Rome, we could say we were in a kind of "ecclesial winter". The church needed some fresh air and find ways to do it from the poorest, and from a theology that was embodied in the Latin American people. Admittedly weight Lopez Trujillo was not easy to take, especially for men and women of our church. We know that Monsignor Romero suffered much in one of his trips to the Vatican, because it is not always understood his commitment and how to be a pastor, his feeling with the church that was his episcopal motto. Today his canonization and how how Pope Francis has presented the testimony of Monsignor Romero, as a way to leave behind that time and do justice to a martyr of the stature of Archbishop, it becomes an unprecedented

What was the main factor that influenced the case of Monsignor Romero will resume, up to this point in his proclamation as Santo?

Has been the miracle of people continue to believe in their commitment, the memory and the imprint he has left. Was itself the people of God who has allowed to prevail memory, and continue to give message to the church.

How do you interpret the adjective “hatred of the faith”, so it was proclaimed a martyr Monsignor Romero?

I understand it is a hatred of a faith that is connected with life. The desire to kill everything that gives life, any word you cry out for and on behalf of God. On behalf of the faith of a people who call for the defense of human rights, at a time when he could not express that. Bishop was not only the voice of the voiceless, but their courageous testimony led to the faith of a people not only were a persecuted faith, It was a faith that bothered who abused and committed crimes. Hatred of faith turns to hate humans.

How do you think the canonization of Monsignor Romero comes to impact Latin America at this time?

I expect the canonization helps us look back to the church building from the grassroots. It is also an opportunity to remember that we can not be authentically Christian but have the smell of sheep said Pope Francisco since the beginning of his pontificate, and still retaining. Be shepherd, be committed Christian is not a title, It is to be the pastor who feels his church and his people, It is a call to rediscover through which the suffering and commitment that challenges the church. For example, in migrant, the victims of human trafficking, in the crimes and those living consequence of crimes, we stop to think about what would be the word of Monsignor Romero at this time.