Twenty-five years ago this month, a Salvadoran military unit entered the Jesuit residence at University of Central America in San Salvador, shot six priests in cold blood and killed the priests’ housekeeper and her daughter.
It was one of the last of the massacres of a long civil war that would soon exhaust itself. Each priest was shot in the back of the head. It was as if the government was making one last effort to silence the most consistent, authentic and powerful counterforce to an oligarchy’s reign of terror.
They died because they refused to stop talking about the demands of justice, of the great imbalances in systems that brutally oppressed the most vulnerable, of the inherent rights and dignity of all humans. They were among those in Latin America whose understanding of the Gospel increasingly compelled them to speak up for the marginalized and disenfranchised.
On that score alone — the integrity of their lives and the circumstances of their deaths — it is worth commemorating them. We would betray a gross deficiency in understanding the meaning of their lives, however, if we were to stop there, placing them now apart from the community, reverently compartmentalized, a relic of some bygone era to be taken out on occasion and admired…