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Friday, May 15, 2009

Monsignor and Me


Back in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, when I was a Washington, D.C.-based foreign correspondent for one of the three main wire services that I worked for during my many years as journalist, a top State Department official used to say that relations between countries should not be viewed as a snapshot, but rather like a movie.
The same can be said of course about life itself.
The fact that the official used this argument to sometimes avoid answering a controversial issue does not rest validity to his point, which in my opinion he had brought to the context of international relations from some other discipline.
Many times and for different reasons I constantly remind myself of such a view. Occasionally, it comes to mind rather forcefully. Such has been the case in the past few weeks, while looking over old papers and files and remembering some of the issues I have written about and some of the people I have known or interviewed.
One of those people is Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez, the archbishop of San Salvador assassinated by a sniper on 24 March, 1980, while officiating mass in remembrance of the deceased mother of another Salvadoran journalist, Jorge Pinto h.
I quote the view held by the former State Department official because of the picture I am posting here. It's the scanned page of the interview that "el Padre Romero" (as most Roman Catholics in El Salvador called him, even when he was already Monsignor Romero) granted me back in 1977, a few days after his formally assuming his new position. Originally published on 6 March, 1977, it was reprinted on 30 March, 1980, the day thousands congregated outside the National Cathedral in San Salvador to attend his funeral.
In future posts I will reminisce some more about Romero. If a life, especially in cases like that of monsignor Romero, shouldn't be judged solely by that one instant in time when something was said or done, what about the opposite? What if your views are firm and solid and remain, no matter what? Shouldn’t that snapshot account as a total reflection of your lifework.
Among the many people that loudly denounced his murderers there were, I am sure, some of those who in the early months of his fated tenure as an archbishop referred to him as “the old son of a bitch" for his refusal to embrace their radical positions.
Neither the people who opposed him and probably rejoiced on his death nor the radicals who hounded him probably ever listened to what Romero held true. As you read in the interview, I asked him whether there was in fact a "new Church."
His answer may have been equivocal to some but it was clear for anybody to understand: "The Church is perennial. The Church is always the same: a Church that extends Christ's mission in the world."

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