Ana Fredes Lopez Cortez, 70, prays during a special mass commemorating the 35th anniversary of Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero in San Salvador. Photo by Oscar Leiva/Silverlight for Catholic Relief Services.

BALTIMORE, MD, March 21, 2017 – During the week of the anniversary of Blessed Oscar Romero’s beatification, international aid organization Catholic Relief Services remembers his legacy of helping people who are suffering and marginalized in El Salvador. CRS highlights the country and its struggles during its Lenten faith-formation program CRS Rice Bowl.

“Though poor communities face a different type of violence than they did during Archbishop Romero’s time, his message is as relevant and necessary as ever,” said Joan Rosenhauer, vice president of CRS’ U.S. Operations, a department which engages U.S. Catholics. “We reflect on his example to not only speak like him but to also find the courage to act like him.”

CRS Rice Bowl provides a path for Catholics in the United States to build, what Pope Francis calls “a culture of encounter.” By following the daily Lenten calendar, sharing the weekly stories of hope, and making the meatless meals, participants will follow a personal journey that leads Catholics to see themselves in the faces of their neighbors, cultivating a spirit of global solidarity and encountering God’s love anew.

“Throughout the week, people should be challenged to live like the late Archbishop to protect the poor and vulnerable,” continued Rosenhauer. “It is our calling as Catholics to speak on behalf of those whose voice is often muffled by poverty, violence, and insecurity.”

CRS also encourages Catholics in the United States to pray for El Salvador throughout the week, asking people to reflect on the pacific activist message of the saintly Blessed Oscar Romero.  

In El Salvador, Blessed Oscar Romero fearlessly denounced the violence and human rights abuses that launched a brutal civil war in 1979. People in villages across the nation tuned in to Blessed Oscar Romero’s radio homilies to find strength and comfort in his words. Each week he condemned the violence and urged people to live out Christ’s message of peace and love. He used his position to become what many called the voice of the voiceless. 

“My disposition must be to give my life for God, whatever the end of my life may be,” said Blessed Oscar Romero. 

Blessed Oscar Romero was shot and killed while celebrating Mass on March 24, 1980. Pope Francis formally declared him a martyr in February 2015, and the Catholic Church beatified him on March 23, 2015.

“As a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection. If I am murdered, I will arise again in the Salvadoran people,” said Blessed Oscar Romero.

Thirty-five years after the death of Blessed Oscar Romero as El Salvador faces violence from street gangs and transnational drug cartels, the Church continues to stand with the poor. Catholic Relief Services works in El Salvador to promote peace by helping at-risk youth and their families overcome violence and poverty through life skills, vocational training, and job placements. CRS’ Youth Build program has helped more than 6,000 young people.