In a letter the prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development commemorates his confrères murdered on the night of 16 November 1989 at the Central American University of the Society of Jesus in San Salvador: “Their lives and deaths inspire our mission”.
By Salvatore Cernuzio
33 years have gone by since the night of 16 November 1989, when six Jesuits were dragged from their beds and shot dead by a commando of the Salvadoran Armed Forces on the campus of UCA, the Central American University of the Society of Jesus in San Salvador. The nation’s bloody civil war (1979-1992) marked these years pitting against each other the country’s right-wing military government and the revolutionary group Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). Authorities accused the rector Father Ignacio Ellacuría, philosopher and theologian, Ignacio Martín-Baró, Segundo Montes, Amando López, Joaquín López y López, Juan Ramón Moreno Pardo, of being FMLN supporters. For this reason they ended up victims of a vicious attack, during which their cook and housekeeper Elba Ramos and her 16-year-old daughter Celina were also murdered.
Investigations over many years
The bloodshed shocked international public opinion at the time, but the investigation never led to the truth with the case shelved in 2000. Twenty years later, the United States sanctioned 13 military officers still in service and former military personnel, Salvadoran exiles, considered responsible for the ‘extrajudicial executions’.
Cardinal Czerny’s letter
Remembering those whom he calls “martyrs” more than three decades after their deaths, Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, wrote a letter in Spanish released on the day of commemorative ceremonies being held in El Salvador. The Jesuit cardinal recalls the murder of his confrères and places it in a long legacy of bloodshed that finds its climax today in what the Pope has called a “third world war”.
Invitation to renewal
“If we look around the world, is there any continent or region where this important anniversary that we remember today can be celebrated in true tranquillity and peace? Or is this rather a time of multiple challenges and uprisings?” Cardinal Czerny asks in the letter. The situation is very serious, but the outlook is nevertheless one of hope: “Despite signs of violence in various parts of the world and the fragility of peace, Our Lord invites us to a renewal through the synodal path,” writes the Cardinal. “Being alert, on our feet and journeying”, he writes, “are the authentic life of the Church, in humble pilgrimage and joyful service, inspired by our martyred brothers and sisters.”
“They embodied the Council”
The Jesuits remembered also exemplified the Second Vatican Council, whose 60th anniversary the Church celebrated on 11 October. “In our efforts to put into practice, organise and institutionalise the vision and mission of the Council, we can say with great honour that our confrères are certainly martyrs of the gift that was the Second Vatican Council. By their lives and deaths, they embodied the Council and the 32nd General Congregation in the great evangelical, educational and social initiative reflected in the Central American University José Simeón Cañas,” Cardinal Czerny writes in his letter.
The mission of the Dicastery
Cardinal Czerny also affirms that the very mission of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development – an expression borrowed from Paul VI’s Populorum Progressio – recently restructured and renewed – continues to be inspired by the “life” and “service” of the Jesuits of the UCA. He writes that they are living, concrete examples of the words found in the final document of the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus in 1995, that pay tribute to men who lived in silence in society, as renowned scholars, preachers and teachers; men who gave their lives for the Gospel, for the Church and for the poor; men who lived simply and faithfully in a world that never understood their poverty, chastity and obedience; and men who brought the Society to this moment in history.