Consecration of the Romero Shrine
“A man of the church, a man of his time, a man of great faith.” With these words, Archbishop Leo Cushley described Saint Oscar Romero, in his homily on Sunday 24 March at Sacred Heart in Edinburgh.
On the feast day of the martyr from El Salvador, the Edinburgh community came together to commemorate and celebrate the saint for the poor. During the morning mass, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh gave a formal blessing to the Romero shrine, which was opened in the church in October 2018.
The small chapel contains a relic of St Oscar Romero – a piece of the bloodstained alb he was wearing when murdered in 1980 – and a 1974 diary of his friend Rutilio Grande SJ, whose assassination in 1977 did so much to prompt St Romero to speak out against injustice, leading ultimately to his own martyrdom just three years later.
The diary is a recent gift from the Jesuits of Central America. Its pages revealed for the first time that the martyred Jesuit priest was diabetic.
The Romero Trust commissioned a new painting from Peter Bridgman for permanent display on the wall of the shrine. The creator of ‘The Great Amen’ at St Ignatius Jesuit Church in Stamford Hill, London, was inspired for this latest work by a photograph by Br Octavio Duran. He has portrayed Rutilio Grande SJ and Oscar Romero in acrylic with two children, the girl smiling reassuringly at the viewer.
Archbishop Cushley began his homily by reminding us that 24th March has been declared by the United Nations the ‘International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims’ - a sign of the great impact of Romero’s legacy. He described his own personal encounter with men of great faith and courage, citing the papal nuncio for Burundi, Monsignor Michael Courtney, who saved many lives during the civil war.
“Being good and being brave isn’t going to save you, sometimes”, the Archbishop warned, “Sometimes, doing the right thing comes at a higher cost.” What set the Archbishop of El Salvador apart was his “love of the faith, love of the church, and love of the people of God who were suffering heavily.”
The 10:45am service at Sacred Heart Church was beautifully animated by the parish choir and organist Eric Studt SJ. Before the final blessing, Sacred Heart parishioner Jim Tracy, helped by his friend Tom, performed a song he wrote on hearing of Romero’s death 39 years ago. “I was very much into Liberation Theology at the time, and when I heard of his murder, I was so shocked,” he said. “I remember I prayed, and I was inspired to put my feelings to music. It was quite a challenge, because some of the lines are a bit strong. The refrain says ‘is the Saviour a name and nothing more? Something beautiful dies so things can grow’, which are not easy to digest, but words that wake you up are needed at times.”
Parishioners were given a good opportunity to put compassion into action: Alistair Dutton, director of Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF), was visiting to make a retiring collection appeal. This was particularly opportune as Oscar Romero and St Margaret of Scotland are patron saints of SCIAF.
Parish Priest Fr William Pearsall SJ said, “It was a wonderful celebration of a great “saint for the poor” for whom there is immense devotion here in Scotland. I was delighted with how it all went and very grateful to the Archbishop and all the community and parishioners who contributed to the success of the blessing. The shrine will do permanent honour to St Romero’s sacrifice.”
The celebration continued in the parish hall, with the community gathering to share some time together, meet the Archbishop, and enjoy a delicious cake especially prepared by one of the parishioners.
On 23rd March, +Rev Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark, presided and blessed the diocesan shrine at St George's Cathedral Southwark, in London.