By Susan Gately - 16 May, 2015
Archbishop Oscar Romero, the slain archbishop of El Salvador, will be beatified in San Salvador next Saturday 23 May.
Archbishop Romero led the Church during the initial years of El Salvador’s bloody and violent 1979-1992 civil war.
He was shot dead while celebrating Mass in 1980.
The archbishop has long been considered a saint by many in Latin America and across the world, but the official Vatican process for recognising sainths had stalled for years until the election of Pope Francis.
Thirty-five years ago, the RTÉ Radharc series broadcast a film about the conflict in El Salvador in Central America, titled Who is for Liberation?
In this film, Radharc went to the Irish Franciscan missionaries to get an insight into the conflict in El Salvador.
In the digitally remastered documentary to be broadcast on Monday 18 May at 23.35, presenter Mick Peelo revisits the old film and puts it into a contemporary context.
The documentary investigated the social, political and religious background to the continuing violence in El Salvador.
At the time wealthy landowners sought the assistance of the army, because they had begun to worry seriously about their hold on power and the survival of the status quo.
They had reason to worry, because after years of siding with the powerful, the country’s Catholic leadership, under Archbishop Oscar Romero, had had a change of heart, and had begun preaching that poverty was a form of enslavement and a sin.
Romero, who had been influenced by Jesuit priests, such as his personal friend Fr Rutilio Grande, who was assassinated in March 1977, was a lone voice among the El Salvadoran bishops, but nonetheless remained adamant that what he was preaching was in line with the message delivered by the Bishops of Latin America, in Medellin and Puebla in 1979.
Today, 35 years after Romero’s martyrdom, El Salvador is a democracy, but the poverty and murders continue, only now it is no longer the brutal military regime, but gang warfare, which kills hundreds every month.
As in 1980, the Catholic Church is conflicted over its role in delivering liberation to the poor and oppressed.
“Archbishop Romero is renowned internationally as a beacon of light for all who work for justice in the world. He’s also a hero in his own El Salvador, where millions will turn out for the Beatification celebrations in the capital San Salvador on 23rd May.”
“Even the notorious killing gangs recognise Romero’s virtues and have promised a ceasefire during the period of celebrations,” says presenter and producer Mick Peelo.
Archbishop Romero’s beatification ceremony will take place in Plaza Divino Salvador del Mundo and Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, will celebrate the Mass.
Radharc was founded by Fr Joe Dunne and is the title of a series of documentaries broadcast by RTÉ between 1962 and 1996.
The first programme was aired on 12 January 1962, just 12 days after the new Irish television service was launched. Over the following 34 years, more than 400 programmes were televised.