On a clear morning with a brilliant sun, the crowds began to gather in the plaza outside the cathedral in San Salvador, El Salvador for the Beatification Mass of Rutilio Grande, SJ and his two lay associates Manuel Sorzano and Nelson Rutilio Lemus.
They were murdered in 1977 for their pastoral work of organizing for the empowerment of the poorest of the poor during the time of great oppression which ushered in the civil war in El Salvador.
As our sisters Flor and Yanira stood on holy ground in El Salvador on January 22nd, they were filled with a sense of pride in being Salvadoran. They were drinking from the deep well of peace from the witness of a people who stand before the darkness of violence and injustice with faith, hope, endurance and who live steadfastly in the power of Resurrection.
Father Rutilio used the documents of Vatican II to awaken the people to see that God’s will is that they be raised up to freedom from poverty and oppression. He was a friend of the (now) Saint Oscar Romero. It was the martyrdom of Rutilio that opened the heart of conservative Bishop Romero to preach against the oppression being perpetrated by the government. This was a dramatic change from the official church position. The courage of Romero resulted in his martyrdom a few years later. The soil of El Salvador has been saturated with the blood of many martyrs during the ten-year civil war including a Franciscan Friar Cosme Espessotto who was murdered shortly after Romero, and also beatified January 22nd.
The Mass of Beatification was celebrated by Salvadoran Cardinal Rosa Chavez who said that the beatification “represents a claim for truth and justice for all the cases that were never investigated or tried.”