Statement on Violence and Campaign Against the Church in El Salvador, November 6, 1980

Year Published
  • 2013
  • English

Bishop Thomas C. Kelly, O.P.
November 6, 1980


The violence visited almost daily upon the poor and suffering people of El Salvador is an ever-growing source of grief to us in the United States. Even the very limited information provided by the general media here tells a story of unrelieved and increasing horror. Well over 5,000 civilians, mostly peasants but including also many students, workers, teachers and professionals, have been killed this year alone. Many thousands more are homeless, having fled to the uncertain safety of refugee centers in El Salvador and in neighboring countries. Women and young children form the majority of these displaced persons; many are malnourished and sick.

The Church in El Salvador has shared fully in this suffering; it has made unmistakably clear its preferential option for the poor; it has embraced the pastoral task of accompanying the people in their hope, in their struggle and in their suffering; and it has paid dearly for this commitment.

The bombing in recent weeks of the archdiocesan offices, housed in the major seminary, the destruction — for the second time this year — of the church’s radio station, the attacks against the Catholic university, the Jesuit residence, and against several churches and convents are not even the most criminal examples of this campaign against the Church. The buildings can be repaired but no earthly power can bring Father Manuel Reyes back to his parish, or Maria Magdalena Henriquez back to her work for human rights, or Rafael Santos and Oscar Romano to their teaching posts at the Jesuit high school.

In the face of the continuing violence in El Salvador, the Church in the United States has a particular interest in U.S. policy positions which affect the people of that nation. The United States Catholic Conference continues to oppose all military aid to the government of El Salvador and any further intervention by our government in the internal affairs of El Salvador. We fervently hope that an accommodation, fully incorporating the positions expressed by the major segments of the Salvadoran population organized in the democratic and revolutionary opposition, may be achieved soon and with a minimum of bloodshed and hatred.

The outpouring of concern and support by the Catholic community of the United States for the suffering people of El Salvador is heartening. Catholic Relief Services, many religious congregations, diocesan committees and the Catholic press have contributed substantially to making visible the universal charity of the Church. Such efforts must be continued and joined with increasing prayer for the Church and the people of El Salvador.