One cross, two stories


This is a story about two crosses

in San Salvador. One is a cross made from

houses destroyed in the earthquake,

el terremoto. The other is the cross

that hangs by the musicians

in the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection.

This cross is the subversive cross,

La cruz subversiva. Both crosses

Come from Medardo Gómez,

the Bishop who pastors the church.

The Bishop calls the cross made

from ruins, the Cross of Life—

No es la cruz de la muerte, he says.

It’s not the cross of death.

The Subversive Cross is the cross

that went to prison. The Cross of Life

is for the Church, maybe for the library.

The Subversive Cross is for the heart,

it has other work to do. Bishop Gómez

ministers to refugees from the war,

He says he’s a refugee himself.

He says we’re all beggars.

Medardo es El Obispo de la Paz,

The Bishop of Peace, he calls his Church

a prophetic Church. Now, during the time

of this telling, a guard has been killed

at the Lutheran University. Medardo says

it wasn’t just murder, it was Death Squads, again.

Los escuadrones de la muerte, that operated

more openly during the time of the war.

The Death Squad murder of the guard

triggers the Bishop’s memory

of the Cruz Subversiva, the cross in prison.

It was November 16, 1989. Six Jesuits killed,

two co-workers dead and burned typewriters.

Then they came to get me.


There were pastors

from Europe and North America

acting as my shields. I went into exile

in Guatemala. They bombed my church

two times. When they couldn’t find me

they took the people in the church. 15 of them.

They took them captive. 12 foreigners,

and three people from my church.

They took my cross to prison, too.

This cross is subversive.

The cross, together with the 15,

were taken by the police.

They committed a great error here,

carrying this cross and those people to jail.

This abuse of power manifested itself

on the cross. The nation’s sins were written

on the cross to teach us and to make us

a prophetic church of liberation.

The error of imprisoning the cross

teaches us of the crimes committed

against the pueblo by the leaders.

The cross only looks passive.

Two months passed with me in exile.

Other pastors from other countries came

and accompanied me to the police.

The North American ambassador came to see me.

I saw this as an opportunity to liberate the cross.

The ambassador talked to the president

who had it delivered to the Presidential Palace.

The President then brought it to me at the Church.

I’ve got a photo of him giving it to me

pinned to the cross itself. See for yourself.

The pilgrim cross made the journey

from the carcel to the Presidential Palace

before coming home. Por eso le decimos ahora

la cruz subversiva.This is why

we call it the subversive cross.


Outside the Church where the Jesuits

Were slain, are these words cast in bronze

In letters 12-inches high:

Con este pueblo

No cuesta ser

Buen pastor.

With our people

There is no cost

To being a good pastor.

Giving us the cross and the stories

in the cross, Medardo sings Tantas cosas,

So many things.

There is only one cross and it’s a cross of life.

The refugees and those in the margins

have been forgotten.

Nuestro pan de cada día, our daily bread,

Crosses only look passive, Medardo says.

This cross is an invitation to walk with the poor,

he says, the job remains the same,

liberate all crosses.

Jim Bodeen

San Salvador—Yakima

February-March, 2005