Earlier this year Óscar Romero, martyred Salvadoran archbishop and renowned figure of the Catholic left, was canonised by Pope Francis in a ceremony in the Vatican. ‘The violence we preach is not the violence of the sword, the violence of hatred,’ Romero once wrote, ‘it is the violence of love, of brotherhood, the violence that wills to beat weapons into sickles for work.’ Three years later he himself was violently killed while giving Mass, on the instructions of death squad leader and far-right politician Roberto D’Aubuisson.
Romero eschewed politics in his youth, attempting instead to forge a ministry that found a middle ground between the activism of many Latin American priests and the traditional leanings of Rome. At the 1968 Conference of Latin American Bishops in Medellín, Colombia, bishops agreed to fight the ‘institutionalised violence’ of poverty and form bases in poor communities, taking ideas from the suppressed French worker-priest movement. It was also at this conference that they affirmed a ‘preferential option for the poor’, teaching that poverty and hunger were not inevitable — a commitment which would form the basis of liberation theology. Romero remained moderate and was known as a ‘stickler’ amongst his peers, his focus tending to lie with administrative tasks and paperwork.