Listen to the Oscar Romero lecture from Edinburgh

Fr Tommy Greenan (centre) at the Romero lecture in Edinburgh with Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Fr Chris Boyles, Fr Henry McLaughlin and Julian Filochowski, chairman and trustee PIC: PAUL McSHERRY

FR TOMMY Greenan, a priest from St Andrews and Edinburgh Archdiocese who is currently based in Central America, recently toured Scotland and England to give the annual Archbishop Romero Memorial Lecture in the 30th anniversary year of his martyrdom. It is worth reading. The text can be seen in full at You can also hear a recording of Fr Greenan’s lecture given in Edinburgh at

Here is an extract from the lecture:

Rodolfo reminded me of Don Quijote.  He always gave the impression of ‘the man of the sad visage, his features and demeanour portrayed sadness’.  His Wellington boots that he always wore added to this configuration.  In a way we could consider Rodolfo as a prototype of a Salvadorean rural worker, forced into exile by soldiers’ persecution which was unleashed throughout the decades of the seventies and eighties.  Vulnerable, the peasants hid in the hills until they crossed into neighbouring Honduras and took refuge in the refugee camp of ‘Mesa Grande’.

In August of 1989, under the protection of the United Nations and other humanitarian organisations, hundreds of these refugees returned to El Salvador, the land of their birth, and rebuilt the houses that had been destroyed and tilled the soil that had been abandoned and neglected in war zones.  They came during the war in the hope of remaking their lives, broken by violence of a bloody civil war. Rodolfo’s community was called ‘Teosinte’, named after a plant, or perhaps a weed, because a weed is a flower out of place.  Teosinte was surrounded by pine trees and mountains in the jurisdiction of San Francisco Morazan, in a war zone.

One dark night, in the church of Teosinte, beneath the tenuous light of a Coleman lamp, I remember that during the homily we started to speak about Archbishop Romero.  I was surprised to see Rodolfo’s hand go up.  He was normally shy and was loathe to speak in public.  He asked to speak.  On that memorable night, with pride in his voice, Rodolfo told us ‘I shook hands with Archbishop Romero on two occasions’.  Then he sat down.

He had gifted us a precious homily on Archbishop Romero.  He had shaken the hand of ‘Monsenor’ and had felt the benefit of having done so.  Archbishop Romero enhanced Rodolfo’s life.

One day in 1992, nearing the end of the civil war, Rodolfo took his son and set off to repair his own house, on his own land, in a far off community which had been abandoned owing to the civil war.  He intended to live there, in his place of origin.  He wanted to find his ‘umbilical cord’.  Exiled Salvadoreans would often speak of ‘going to find their umbilical cord’ buried with the placenta in a corn field.  This was their way of saying ‘I’m going home’ to my place of origin.

Accompanied by his son, Rodolfo climbed onto the roof to replace loose and broken tiles of his mud house and he accidentally touched a booby trap and the explosion of the artefact killed him instantaneously. His child survived.

I’ll always remember Rodolfo as a man with the sad visage and drooping moustache who shook the hand of Archbishop Romero on two occasions, and had felt the benefit of having done so.  And I hasten to add that Rodolfo enhanced the life of Archbishop Romero on two occasions.

In three short years, and many long (but agreeable) homilies, Archbishop Romero fulfilled his role as the People’s Catechist, as the teacher of their faith.  His Cathedral turned out to be the locality for a ‘family gathering’ where the father instructs his children and enlightens them with his wisdom.  The people eagerly waited for this affirmation from their ‘father’ in God whom they called respectfully ‘Monsenor’.  But for the oppressors and murderers the words of San Salvador’s bishop were darkness and condemnation…


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