Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande Declared a Martyr

BY ISN STAFF February 22, 2020

Fr. Rutilio Grande, S.J., is a step closer to eventually becoming a saint. According to The New York Times, Pope Francis approved a decree Friday proclaiming Fr. Grande “a martyr for the Catholic faith.” Analysis by America notes that such recognition of martyrdom means that Grande may soon be beatified— declared“blessed.” Numerous outlets have suggested that beatification could take place in El Salvador later this year. The process for Grande’s beatification was opened in 2015.

Rutilio Grande, S.J. relics at the Romero Center on the campus of the University of Central America

Rutilio Grande, S.J. relics being photographed in 2014 at the Romero Center on the campus of the University of Central America

Grande was born in 1928 into a poor family in El Paisnal in El Salvador; he began pursuing his vocation to be a pastor at a young age, getting to know Luis Chavez, the Archbishop of San Salvador, as a teenager and entering the Jesuits at age 17. Father Grande was ordained in 1959 and served as the prefect of discipline and the professor of pastoral theology in the diocesan seminary from 1965 to 1970. He became the pastor of Aguilares in 1972 and encouraged the local population to fight for land reform and justice; he also became a member of the priests’ senate in 1974. Father Grande understood that as a priest, what was demanded of him was an example of loving service and self-sacrifice, an understanding exemplified in his most famous sermon on February 13, 1977.

On February 13, 1977, Father Grande said mass in honor of a Colombian priest who had been recently arrested in El Salvador and deported without charges. In his sermon, he declared: “I’m quite aware that very soon the Bible and the Gospel won’t be allowed to cross our borders…because all the pages are subversive. And I think that if Jesus himself came across the border at Chalatengo, they wouldn’t let him in…without any doubt, they would crucify him again.” As a direct result of this sermon, on March 12, while driving from Aguilares to El Paisnal with 15-year-old Nelson Rutilio Lemus and 72-year-old Manuel Solorzano, his car was sprayed with gunfire and he died instantly.

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