Archbishop Oscar Romero, the Salvadoran priest assassinated by men trained and armed by the United States to fight in the El Salvadoran government’s war once said, “Those who work on the side of the poor suffer the same fate as the poor.”

The execution of Archbishop Romero in El Salvador in March 1980 was followed less than a year later by the kidnapping, rape and execution of four nuns (Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan) in the country.

On November 16, 1989, six Jesuit priests and a housekeeper were assassinated in a private residence located on the grounds of the private university, UCA El Salvador. These deaths were also attributed to the Salvadoran army.

The deaths of the priests and nuns of El Salvador served purpose for military forces, in that terror was indeed instilled in the Salvadoran people: the acts signaled to the people the higher authority of the military over church; it marked a tangible depreciation of conduct of war; and, spiritually, the deaths took hope from the people, whose cause was being led by the assassinated clergy.

Politically, the deaths brought the matters of nation-state supported terrorism, and, U.S. involvement in that terrorism  – to a world audience.

The U.S. involvement in El Salvador was a layer of quagmire, embedded within a layer of imbroglio, sprinkled with confusion, – with an added dash of dubiety, for taste: the government’s actions singularly focused on military support of a terrorist regime, and, not at all organized around long-term policy or support of the people.

While citizens of the United States may previously have been comfortably ignorant of U.S. Central and South American policy, following the high-profile assassinations most Americans wanted no part in policy which armed with weapons to execute American clergy.

On July 26, 2016, two men entered morning Mass at Saint Etienne du Rouvray in Normandy, France and took five hostages, killing Father Jacques Hamel – the parish’s octogenarian priest (another hostage is in critical condition.)

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack and there are reports that the terrorists filmed themselves murdering Father Hamel.

In the midst of the terrorist madness, one can’t help but think of the parallels of the killing of clergy in El Salvador and the killing of clergy of Normandy: once again, there is some element of U.S. policy at play, and, once again there is an escalation in the types of attacks the terrorists will employ, in an effort to instill fear.

In response to the terrorist attacks in Munich and Kabul, Pope Francis delivered a speech, Against the Acts of Terrorism (the Pope’s words came before the event which claimed the life of the priest in Normandy.)

It is the “once more” words of the Pope’s speech that highlights the parallels between the killing of clergy in El Salvador and the killing of clergy in Normandy: once more, U.S. policy has contributed to a problem which has grown larger than the U.S. can manage; once more, terrorists will employ the killing of clergy as a military tool; and, once more, those at the mercy of these decisions attempt to right the ship from a leeward side. 


Transcript: Against Deplorable Acts of Terrorism

Delivered by Pope Francis, July 26, 2016.

“At this time our soul is once more shaken by sad news with regard to deplorable acts of terrorism and violence which have caused sorrow and death. I think of the dramatic events in Munich, Germany and Kabul, Afghanistan where numerous, innocent people have lost their lives. I am close to the family and friends of the victims and the wounded. I invite you to unite yourselves with my prayer, that the Lord might inspire in all resolutions of goodness and fraternity.

The more difficulties seem insurmountable and prospects of security and peace seem obscure, the more insistent must be our prayer.”


Editors, writers and members of the Fraternal Order of the Leather Apron Club.