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Rutilio Grande, Jesuit and martyr

Pope Francis recently authorized the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints to publish a decree recognising “the martyrdom of the Servants of God Rutilio Grande García, professed priest of the Society of Jesus, and two lay companions, killed in El Salvador, in hatred of the faith, on March 12, 1977.” The door is now open for the canonization of Rutilio Grande. For martyrs no miracle is required.

Rutilio Grande was killed by a death squad in El Salvador on 12 March 1977 as he was driving with 72-year-old Manuel Solorzano and Nelson Lemus, who was just 16. They were driving to El Paisnal, the village of Grande’s birth, for the novena of San José.

An innovator in pastoral work, Grande had stood for many years side-by-side with the Salvadoran campesinos, teaching them how to organise themselves in unions and work for fairer conditions and greater social justice.

The assassination of Fr Rutilio Grande had a profound and immediate effect on Oscar Romero, who had only recently been appointed Archbishop of San Salvador. Three years later, Archbishop Romero himself was martyred, shot by Salvadoran soldiers as he celebrated Mass.

Irish Jesuit Michael O’Sullivan, who lived and worked in Latin America in the 1990s, wrote an introduction to the life of Fr Rutilio Grande SJ for Jesuit Lives through the Ages: With Christ in Service, edited by Patrick Carberry SJ (Messenger Publications, 2017). Read his chapter here » The photo accompanying this article is of the roadside crosses which mark the place where Grande and his two companions were murdered. Michael took the photo when he was living in El Salvador.