Statement on the Killing of Four Missionaries in El Salvadore, December 5, 1980

Year Published
  • 2013
  • English

Archbishop John P. Roach
December 5, 1980

The assassination of Archbishop Romero in March of this year has dramatized to Christians, as few other events could, the inherent risk faced today by those who would be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The pastoral task of accompanying the people, especially the poor and oppressed, in their daily suffering and struggle, has made the church of El Salvador a vibrant symbol to all the world.

In these last days the price of such fidelity has brought death and destruction of unprecedented proportions to the Christian community of El Salvador.

One week ago, as we in this country gathered in our homes and churches to give thanks to God for His bounty, armed men invaded the Jesuit high school in San Salvador where some two dozen people were meeting peacefully. Within twenty-four hours the bodies of six of them, including most of the top leadership of the opposition movement, were found, marked by signs of savage torture.

Soon after their bodies were brought to the Metropolitan Cathedral where many came to mourn their slain leaders, the church was rocked by an explosion that destroyed parts of the building and wounded several.

No sooner had their funeral ended yesterday when we learned of the disappearance of four American women, all missioned to El Salvador. Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clark had been met at the international airport on Tuesday evening by Ursuline Sister Dorothy Koesel and lay volunteer Jean Donovan, both of the Cleveland Mission Team. Their burned-out microbus was found abandoned along the highway near the airport. And just today we have received confirmation that all four have been killed.

This campaign of violence against the poor and those who side with the poor is an abomination that cries to heaven. People of good will everywhere must now more than ever make their own the anguished cry of Archbishop Romero’s last public homily: “In the name of God and in the name of that suffering people whose cries, each day more insistently, reach to the very heavens, I ask, I beg, I command in the name of God, stop the repression!”

Let those who govern in El Salvador fulfill the elementary duty of any government claiming legitimacy, namely, bring under true control its own military and security forces and end the bloody repression against the Church and the popular movements.

Let those who are responsible for the policy of the United States toward El Salvador, those now in office and those about to assume office, make unmistakably clear to all the revulsion of the American people at the sickening spiral of violence affecting the Salvadoran people. Cessation of all assistance to repressive security forces and a clear affirmation of our perduring commitment to human rights are measures available to our political leaders; let such measures be taken now.

The Church in the United States shares the grief the families, the religious communities and the dioceses from which the four dedicated and valiant women carne. We share the grief of all in El Salvador whose loved ones have been so brutally taken from them. And we pray, during this time of waiting for the Lord's coming, that the hour of justice, peace and healing will come soon to El Salvador.