The Martyrs of El Salvador

On 16 November 1989, six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her 15-year-old daughter were brutally murdered in El Salvador by soldiers of the US trained Atlacatl Battalion of the El Salvadoran army.

Many years later, 77 year old Inocente Orlando Montano, a former Salvadoran army colonel, was convicted of five of the murders and sentenced to 133 years in prison.

Ignacio Ellacuría SJ, Ignacio Martín-Baró SJ, Segundo Montes SJ, Juan Ramón Moreno SJ, Joaquín López y López SJ, Amando López SJ, Elba and Celina Ramos were dragged from their beds that night and shot.

The bodies of the Jesuits were mutilated and their blood seeped into the soil of the University of Central America campus where they lived and worked.

I recall walking past their rooms, typical of so many Jesuit houses I have visited around the world, cluttered with books and clothes, but all utterly simple.

I visited a small rural community in which one of the Jesuits, Joaquin Lopez y Lopez SJ, had ministered. The people spoke warmly of his gentleness and his presence among them sharing their joys and fears – an act of the presence of God.

Each Jesuit was different from the other but they all represented a Church which stood with the poor and the oppressed. They visited people in their homes but also spoke out fearlessly in public against the repression and the atrocities which they experienced.

As Jesuits, each would have undertaken the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius twice in their lives. Each would have prayed with St Ignatius “to imitate and be more like Christ our choose poverty with Christ poor.. and to desire to be a fool for Christ.”

In their simplicity, fearlessness and foolishness, I find great holiness.  

Unknown author