Oscar Arnulfo Romero was born in 1917, in Ciudad Barrios in the province of San Miguel, El Salvador. His father trained him to be a carpenter, but at the age of 14, he left home to study to be a priest.

He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of San Salvador in 1942 and quickly became a popular, well-known parish priest and editor of his diocesan newspaper. In 1967, he went to work for the bishops of El Salvador and soon became Bishop of Santiago de Maria.

In 1975, soldiers attacked a village saying they were looking for weapons and killed many innocent people. At the funerals of these villagers, he spoke about people’s human rights and how the military was wrong in the things they did. He even wrote to the country’s president.

When Romero became archbishop of San Salvador, the government turned on the church. Priests were arrested and protesters were killed. Then, on March12, 1977, a priest and friend of Romero’s, Rutilio Grande, was murdered in Aguilares as a warning to Romero to mind his own business. Archbishop Romero excommunicated the murderers, announcing they could not receive sacraments in the church. The government closed Catholic schools, and more priests were tortured and killed, as were teachers of religion. Even possessing a Bible or a hymnbook became illegal.

Romero encouraged peaceful reform; where violence was unavoidable, he worked to overcome the spirit of hatred and vengeance. He risked his own life as he defended the poor and oppressed. On March 24, 1980, he was gunned down by an unknown assassin while celebrating Mass in a small hospital chapel. The day before, he had asked Salvadoran soldiers to obey God and not the government.

More than 250,000 Salvadorans attended his funeral, during which a bomb exploded, and more people were killed. Many Salvadorans in the following years “disappeared,” never to be seen or heard from again — most likely killed. It was only in 2010, that the government of El Salvador formally apologized for the assassination of Archbishop Óscar Romero.

In 1997, Pope John Paul II bestowed upon Óscar Romero the title of “Servant of God,” when his cause for canonization was opened. In February 2015, Pope Francis declared Archbishop Romero a martyr. The church formally beatified him on May 23, 2015. On Oct. 14, 2018, he was canonized.

Adapted by A.J. Valentini from: Óscar Arnulfo Romero | Saints Resource. (n.d.). Saints Resource. Retrieved March 15, 2021, from