Meeting with Father Rogelio Ponseele

During Tony’s Romero Trust Pilgrimage to El Salvador, he met with Father Rogelio Ponseele, who served as pastor within a guerrilla controlled area during the civil war:

Tuesday, 19 November

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Fr Rogelio Ponseele PP was born in Belgium. He came to El Salvador at the start of the violent decade of the 1970s and has been there ever since, living alongside the peasants in the poorest villages of the country.

Father Rogelio explained that he came to be part of the community and the difficult reality of the poor of El Salvador. He came to serve in a very poor area called Zacamil. His mission involved encouraging poor communities (Campesinos) to look at their reality in line with the gospel. To engage in a “see, judge and act theology”
During the 1970’s many atrocities were carried out by the El Salvadorian army and secret police. He recalled an occasion in 1977 when a number of Campesinos that he was working with were involved in a demonstration against the severe repression. 30 people were killed. Fr Rogelio went on to explain:

“I don’t agree with violence and have never used arms myself. However, when the civil war started, many of the poor I was working with decided it was time to defend themselves and join the opposition army. When the war started I didn’t want to desert the poor pastorally. So I decided to stay with a poor community who had decided to take up arms. I slept on a plastic sheet and had very little to eat and lived like this alongside the guerrilla army for 10 years. We ate tortillas and beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They were terrible times for us all. We were often being bombed. I was not a guerilla or politician, but a pastor in a time of massacre. A time when 1000 men, women and children were massacred at El Mozote. A time when even the Archbishop was assassinated!”

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

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