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In Brief

On March 24, 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero was murdered while celebrating Mass in a hospital chapel in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. In 1988, this chronologically arranged selection—drawn principally from Romero's homilies—was published by Harper & Row. We owe a debt a gratitude to Plough for its reissue.

During his tenure as archbishop (he was appointed in 1977), Romero spoke out frequently against the greed of El Salvador's ruling elite and the brutality of its military, whose death squads (many of them led by U.S.-trained officers) killed and raped with impunity. He spoke on behalf of the poor and the oppressed, and he defended the "right of just insurrection" as recognized in Pope Paul VI's 1967 encyclical, Populorum Progressio. For such courageous stands Romero was murdered.

To that extent, the received account—the "myth of Archbishop Romero"—is accurate. But Romero was not, as he is often portrayed by tendentious commentators, a convert to liberation theology.

"It's amusing," he said in a homily on June 3, 1979: "This week I received accusations from both extremes—from the extreme right, that I am a communist; from the extreme left, that I am joining the right. I am not with the right or the left. I am trying to be faithful to the word that the Lord bids me preach, to the message that cannot change, which tells both sides the good they do and the injustices they commit." On September 2 of that same year, he observed: "Those who do not understand transcendence cannot understand us. When we speak of injustice here below and denounce it, they think we are playing politics. It is in the name of God's just reign that we denounce the injustices of the earth."

Passionate, unpretentious, and deeply moving, The Violence of Love is a manual for the Christian life, calling us—whether in San Salvador or Chicago, Sarajevo, or New York—to reveal the presence of Christ.—JW

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