The Pope and Romero

My posting from a few days ago regarding pope John Paul II and Romero was probably a bit simplistic. My statement that when the pope visited El Salvador three years after Romero's assassination he "spoke in the voice of Romero" glossed over the definite antagonism of the pope towards liberation theology, despite the pope's support of freedom struggles across the world.

The PBS program Frontline broadcast a program titled John Paul II - the Millennial Pope. The transcript of the program contains these recollections of a visit by Romero to visit the pope in Rome:

MARIA LOPEZ VIGIL: [through interpreter] I am never going to forget it's in my mind the gesture that Monsignor Romero made when he was explaining that to me. He did this gesture. "Look," he said, "that the Holy Father says that the archbishopric must get along well with the government, that we must enter into a dialogue. And I was trying to let the Holy Father understand that the government attacks the people. And if I am the pastor of the people, I cannot enter into good understanding with this government." But the Holy Father was insisting.

I am still seeing Monsignor Romero making that gesture like wanting to things to converge that cannot converge.

Rev. JON SOBRINO, Liberation Theologian: [through interpreter] When Romero told him that the that the church was being persecuted in El Salvador, John Paul said to him "Well, well, don't exaggerate it." And he said to Romero, "You have to be very careful with communism." The result was that Monsignor Romero was very upset. He left the Vatican in tears. It was a sad interview, very sad.
Oscar Romero had the following words to say about his visit to Rome:
There in Rome, the information I gave, the lengthy and calm dialogs I had with the representatives of the church’s central authority, the clarifications I made of certain misunderstandings or of understandings based on false or biased reports, and my very presence there seemed so providential to me that I give thanks to God that they now know there how I love and support the See of the successor of Peter. They could not doubt my faithfulness to the pope, and I have once more affirmed that, God willing, I will die faithful to Peter’s successor, the Vicar of Christ.

I told them: it’s easy to preach his teachings theoretically. To follow faithfully the pope’s magisterium in theory is very easy. But when you try to live those saving teachings, try to incarnate them, try to make them reality in the history of a suffering people like ours – that is when conflicts arise.

Not that I have been unfaithful – never! I think that today I am more faithful than ever, because I experience the trial, the suffering – and the intimate joy – of proclaiming with more than words and lip service a teaching that I have always believed and loved. I am trying to give it life in this community, which the Lord has entrusted to me.

Dear friends, if we are really Catholics, followers of an authentic gospel – and therefore a difficult gospel – if we really want to live up to the name of followers of Christ, let us not be afraid to transform into flesh and blood, into living history, this teaching, which from the pages of the gospel becomes present reality in the teaching
of the councils and of the popes, who try to live like true shepherds through the vicissitudes of their times.

JULY 2, 1978