Oscar Romero was born August 15, 1917, to Santos Romero and Guadalupe de Jésus Galdámez in Ciudad Barrios in the San Miguel department of El Salvador. At the age of one, Óscar was baptised into the Catholic Church by Fr. Cecilio Morales. He had 5 brothers and 2 sisters: Gustavo, Zaída, Rómulo, Mamerto, Arnoldo and Gaspar, and Aminta (who died shortly after birth).
Romero entered the minor seminary in San Miguel at the age of thirteen. He left seminary for three months to return home when his mother became ill after the birth of her eighth child; during this time he worked with two of his brothers in a gold mine near Ciudad Barrios. After graduation he enrolled in the national seminary in San Salvador. He completed his studies at the Gregorian University in Rome, where he received a Licentiate in Theology cum laude in 1941, but had to wait a year to be ordained because he was younger than the required age. He was ordained in Rome on April 4, 1942.
Romero remained in Italy to obtain a doctoral degree in Theology and specialized in ascetical theology and Christian perfection according to Venerable Luis de la Puente. Before finishing, in 1943 at the age of 26, he was summoned back home from Italy by his bishop. He traveled home with a good friend, a Father Valladares, who was also doing doctoral work in Rome. On the route home, they were detained by the Cuban police, and were placed in a series of internment camps. After several months in prison, Valladares became sick, the two transferred to a hospital. From the hospital, they were released from Cuban custody and sailed on to Mexico, then traveled overland to El Salvador.
Romero was first assigned to serve as a parish priest in Anamorós, but then moved to San Miguel where he worked for over 20 years. He promoted various apostolic groups, started an Alcoholics Anonymous group, helped in the construction of San Miguel’s cathedral and supported devotion to Our Lady of Peace. He was later appointed rector of the inter-diocese seminary in San Salvador. In 1966, he was chosen to be Secretary of the Bishops Conference for El Salvador. He also became the director of the archdiocesan newspaper Orientación, which became fairly conservative while he was editor, defending the traditional Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
In 1970, Romero was appointed an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of San Salvador. In 1974, he was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Santiago de María, a poor, rural region.
Romero spent the day of March 24, 1980 in a recollection organized by Opus Dei, a monthly gathering of priest friends led by Msgr. Fernando Sáenz Lacalle. On that day they reflected on the priesthood. That evening, Romero was fatally shot while celebrating Mass at a small chapel located in a hospital called “La Divina Providencia”, one day after a sermon in which he had called on Salvadoran soldiers, as Christians, to obey God’s higher order and to stop carrying out the government’s repression and violations of basic human rights. As soon as he finished his sermon, Romero proceeded to the middle of the altar and was shot there. According to an audio recording, Romero was shot while holding up the chalice for consecration.
“Archbishop Romero built the peace with the power of love, [and] gave testimony of the faith with his life”.Pope Francis
The beatification of Romero was held in San Salvador on May 23, 2015. It was celebrated in the Plaza Salvador del Mundo under the Monumento al Divino Salvador del Mundo. Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., presided over the ceremony on behalf of Pope Francis, who sent a letter to Archbishop of San Salvador José Luis Escobar Alas, marking the occasion and calling Romero “a voice that continues to resonate”. An estimated 250,000 people attended the service, many watching on large television screens set up in the streets around the plaza.
In a message sent for the beatification, Pope Francis said Archbishop Romero “built the peace with the power of love, [and] gave testimony of the faith with his life”.