Tony Sheen describes his meeting with Oscar Romero’s former personal secretary, Monseñor Ricardo Uriostes:
Saturday, 16 November
During our trip to San Salvador we had the privilege of meeting with Monseñor Ricardo Uriostes, who served as Oscar Romero’s personal secretary while he was Archbishop of San Salvador. He was accompanied by Ms Paulita Pike, who was a student of the Jesuits who were murdered 24 years ago.
Monseñor Ricardo Uriostes is now 88 years old and has been a priest for 65 years. He addressed us:
“We are the universal Church of Christ, of one body . Not the Church of England or El Salvador! St Paul said if one does not have the spirit of Christ then he does not belong to Christ. We must look to the gospels for guidence. In the gospel, Jesus maintains a constant relation with the Father and remains close to the poor. We should take note of how much time the gospels refer to the sacraments and how much time he serves the poor. If you add the times and hours it’s enlightening for our life balance. Remember, Jesus said ‘For when I was hungry , did you give me food, thirsty did you gave me a drink’.”
Monseñor Ricardo shared with us two moving personal stories from the civil war. The first story was of a Campesino woman (poor peasant woman). She was heavily pregnant during the civil war and had to flee her village for safety. She took shelter, hiding in the forest, and there gave birth to her baby near a river, with guns firing around her. Sadly, her breast milk dried up and she had to give the baby water from the river to drink. The woman told Monseñor Ricardo that she was grateful to God for the water from the river as it had kept her baby alive. Amazingly, the baby had survived!
Monseñor Ricardo then shared the story of another Campesino woman who came to him for confession. Before she could say anything she started to cry uncontrollably. Msr Ricardo tried to comfort her saying surely nothing can be that bad. She then said she had done something really terrible many years ago. She eventually told the Monseñor that she had killed her baby. She explained that one night she was out and the army were shooting everywhere and everyone, so she lay on the floor quietly with her tiny baby. Her baby then started to cry. She put her hand over her baby’s mouth and lay still as the soldiers walked past. When the soldiers had gone she got up and saw the baby had gone blue in the face and suffocated. Monseñor Ricardo told her that God loved her and did not blame her for what had happened.
The Monseñor also spoke that not all the poor are good people, but neither are the rich or the middle class people, saying:
“However I often meet Christ in the face of the poor.
When Romero was installed as Archbishop I, like many others, did not want to attend, as we did not want to be hypocrites. We didn’t want him and did not officiate at the installation.On his first day in the office, I met him and held the door open for him. He looked me in the eye and said ‘Help me!’
At the start of February, at one of his first meetings, Romero was hosting a meeting with the evangelicals to talk about the relationship between the churches. Romero walked into the room and announced we need to talk about the situation of poor communities having to flee for safety from the army. We were all astounded. In Luke Chap 23. Jesus was accused of inciting the people, political accusations which were also made of Romero.”
Monseñor Ricardo expects Monseñor Romero to be canonised soon. Only three Bishops have been murdered inside a church. They are Stanislav, from Poland, Thomas Becket, from England, and Oscar Romero. The first two have been made saints so Romero must be soon!
Monseñor Ricardo expressed his concern at the closure of the Tutela Legal human rights office by the current Archbishop of San Salvador, Jose Luis Escobar.
Tutela Legal played a key role in the investigation and documentation of the crimes committed during the civil war that El Salvador faced between 1980 and 1992, and its files contain around 80% of the cases of serious violations of human rights during that period. Among them are the murder of Monseñor Oscar Romero and the massacre of El Mozote, for which the Inter-American Court of Human Rights sentenced the Salvadoran State in December 2012 for the perpetration of the massacre, the hiding of the truth and the denial of justice.
Monseñor Ricardo finished by thanking the Romero Trust pilgrims for their solidarity with the Salvadoran Church.
Read more from Tony’s pilgrimage to El Salvador: https://cafodwestminster.wordpress.com/tag/tonypilgrimage/.