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Remembering the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador

martyrs_01Jesuits and their collegues around the world are remembering the six Jesuit priests who were killed 20 years ago in El Salvador, along with their housekeeper and her daughter. On16 November 1989, a military death squad besieged the campus of the Jesuit-run University of Central America in San Salvador, and murdered Fathers Segundo Montes, Ignacio Martin Baro, Juan Ramon Moreno, Amando Lopez, Joaquin Lopez y Lopez and Ignacio Ellacuria, as well as Elba and Celina Ramos. The late Irish Jesuit Jimmy McPolin was working in the University at the time but had left the campus to visit in the countryside before the murders occurred. Fr Michael Campbell-Johnston SJ was head of the British Province at the time of the murders and has a long association with Central America. Writing in this week’s The Tablet he says, ‘All of them (the priests) aimed to give a voice to the voiceless, and many attempts were made over the years to silence them, including bombing the university printing press. There can be no doubt that their martyrdom opened the eyes of the authorities, including the American Embassy, and contributed more than any other event to the peace treaty which put an end to the 10-year-long brutal civil war that had cost the lives of more then 70,000 people, mostly civilians, women, children and the aged.’

As a sign of public atonement for past actions, the President of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, has awarded the country’s highest award – the National Order of José Matias Delgado – to the six Jesuits. Fr Dean Brackley SJ, chose to go to El Salvador just a few days after the murders  of the Jesuits to continue their work and he has spoken to Vatican Radio about their legacy.

To mark the anniversary here in Ireland, at 6.30pm, Nov 16, the  Milltown Institute, Sandford Rd, Ranelagh, D6, will screen the award winning feature film ‘Innocent Voices’. It will be introduced by David Quinney Mee, a Baptist minister who worked in El Salvador. The film tells the story of eleven year old Oscar Torres and his family as he tries to avoid forced conscription into the Salvaldoran army in the 1980’s.

Sli Eile and the Ballymun Gospel Choir also held a special commemorative mass in the Virgin Mary Church, Shangan Road, Ballymun on Sunday 15 November 2009 at 7.00pm. The theme of the Mass was “Accountability – No Peace without Justice”.