The Jesuits of El Salvador – The UCA and the Rose Garden

Tony’s journey in El Salvador continues.  He writes:

Thursday 14th November 

Yet another disturbing truth.

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This morning we visited the UCA (the Universidad Centroamericana). The famous Jesuit University opened in the 1960s with a concern for social problems and a reputation of teaching liberation theology. This was a place which was home to the six Jesuit priests who were killed in 1989 alongside their housekeeper Julia Elba Ramos and her daughter Celina.

The Jesuits lived in the UCA and were strong advocates for the poor. They were continuing to preach the gospel in keeping with the teachings of Oscar Romero.  We were welcomed by Juan Pico SJ, who told the story of the tragic events 24 years ago this weekend.

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Clare and Julian then took us to the memorial rose garden with an American journalist Jean Palumbo, who was in San Salvador on 16th November 1989.

The Chief of the Army had been broadcasting on the radio “to be a patriot and kill a priest” and that was exactly what the 14 armed soldiers set out to do when they marched into the University on 16th November 1989.  These events took place nine years after the death of Oscar Romero

We learned the solders burned down the library and fired shots through a picture of Oscar Romero.

They then dragged the following Jesuits from their bedrooms into the area which is now the Rose Garden and Shots them:

  • Elba Ramos
  • Celina Ramos
  • Ignacio Ellacuria
  • Ignacio Martin-Baro
  • Segundo Montes
  • Juan Ramon Moreno
  • Amando Lopez
  • Joaquin Lopez Y Lopez

Also staying the house overnight was the gardener’s wife, Julia Elba Ramos, and her daughter Celina, who had stayed on his advice that it would be too dangerous on the streets that evening. They too were shot dead by the army.

Our journalist friend, Jean, visited UCA the morning after murders and saw the dead bodies of the martyrs in this very same rose garden.

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What followed was another attempt by the government and army to cover up the murders. They blamed the left wing FMLN for the murders and even persuaded the Archbishop to back them up and confirm this to the Vatican.

Another Jesuit who was then a member of the University  was Jon Sobrino SJ, who was travelling overseas with CAFOD at the time.  It was Julian Filochowski‘s job to call Jon Sobrino and tell him the news of the deaths of his colleagues and friends.  It is evident that the Lord had much more work for Jon to do in the years ahead as an inspirational champion of the truth and the preferential option for the poor.

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Jon is now an old man with poor health and we were told it was unlikely that we would be able to see him.

As if on cue he arrived to receive us. I am not ashamed to say if brought a very big lump to my throat.

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Read more of Tony’s current pilgrimage to El Salvador here: https://cafodwestminster.wordpress.com/tag/tonypilgrimage/

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