Romero remembered: a new documentary
America Magazine blogs point out that there is a new documentary about Romero entitled “Monseñor: The Last Days of Oscar Romero.” which is due to come out. They’ve got a trailer for the film, here.
I tried to embedd it but really couldn’t work it out.
Meanwhile over at the New York Review of Books, Alma Guillermoprieto writes about the film. She also remembers Archbishop Oscar Romero’s murder and how it ruptured El Salvador. Guillermoprieto interviewed Archbishop Romero and spent time in the country after Romero’s death. Her account is compelling and beautifully written, though critical of the Church’s hierarchy.
Here is a portion of Guillermoprieto’s article in the NYRB but the whole piece is worth reading.
But for the Church rank-and-file Romero has become an extraordinarily meaningful figure, as a quick Internet search of his name can attest. We can find evidence of this in yet another work intended to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of his death: a documentary film, Monseñor: The Last Journey of Óscar Romero, directed by Ana Carrigan and Juliet Weber, and produced by the Kellogg Institute at Notre Dame, a Catholic university.
The film is, unintentionally perhaps, or at least effortlessly, a hagiography, a record of a saintly life. It is an astonishing compilation of footage from the last three years of Romero’s life, not only of the archbishop himself but of army patrols and mothers of the disappeared and guerrillas on the move—and above all of those unforgettable Masses in which the small, unprepossessing archbishop read out loud the record of the government’s atrocities while hundreds of ragged, persecuted campesinos listened in gratitude, their existence and suffering recognized at last.
I interviewed Romero two or three times before he died, and although I cannot locate any of my notebooks from those dreadful years, I have the distinct recollection that he did not say anything particularly scintillating or inspirational or visionary: he was deeply distrustful of rhetoric and purposefully self-effacing. Instead of words I have the memory of a peculiar ducking gesture he used to make with his head when, after Sunday Mass, he stood outside the Cathedral doors shaking hands with every single one of the knobby-jointed, malnourished campesinos who came from miles away to hear him, a few coins knotted into their handkerchiefs for the journey back. They would clasp his hand and stare into his face and try to say something about what he meant to them, and he would duck his head and look away: not me, not me.
The day before his murder, on Sunday March 23, after the long dreadful months in which four American churchwomen had been killed, and a cropduster had sprayed insecticide on a protest demonstration, and we reporters had gone nearly mad from the obligation to hunt every morning for the mutilated corpses that D’Aubuisson’s people had left at street corners the night before, and distraught mothers lined up every day outside the archbishopry’s legal aid office asking for help in finding their disappeared children, and the waking nightmare of El Salvador clamored to the very heavens for justice, Óscar Arnulfo Romero for the first time spoke in exclamation points during his Sunday homily.
I want to make a special request to the men in the armed forces: brothers, we are from the same country, yet you continually kill your peasant brothers. Before any order given by a man, the law of God must prevail: “You shall not kill!”… In the name of God I pray you, I beseech you, I order you! Let this repression cease!
The next day he was shot.