Salvadoran Archbishop Announces the Canonization Process of a “Large Group of Martyrs” from the Salvadoran Civil War

Salvadoran Archbishop Announces the Canonization Process of a “Large Group of Martyrs” from the Salvadoran Civil War

BY ISN STAFFAugust 8, 2023

On Sunday, August 6, the Most Reverend José Luis Escobar Alas, Archbishop of San Salvador, announced that Salvadoran bishops have begun the canonization process for a “large group of martyrs” of the internal armed conflict that took place from 1980 to 1992.

“Our Episcopal Conference has begun the process of canonization of a large group of our martyrs from the recent armed conflict that we have suffered in the country,” the archbishop announced in San Salvador.

Plaque marking Jesuit martyrs and lay women's murder location

Plaque marking the site where the six Jesuits and two lay women’s bodies were left on November 16, 1989, at the Jesuit university in San Salvador, El Salvador.

Archbishop Escobar Alas made particular reference to the Jesuit Fr. Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J., who was murdered by the Salvadoran Army in 1989 at the University of Central America (UCA) in San Salvador, El Salvador alongside five fellow Jesuit priests—Ignacio Martín-Baró, S.J., Segundo Montes, S.J., Juan Ramón Moreno, S.J., Joaquín López y López, S.J., Amando López, S.J.—their housekeeper Elba Ramos, and her 15-year-old daughter Celina Ramos. 

It is hoped for but not yet confirmed that Fr. Ellacuría is among those being considered for canonization.

“The Ignatian Solidarity Network is deeply moved by Archbishop Escobar Alas’ announcement that the Salvadoran bishops conference will initiate the process of cannonization for individuals martyred during the country’s civil war. In addition, we are heartened by his direct reference to Fr. Ellacuría,” said Christopher Kerr, executive director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network. The Ignatian Solidarity Network’s mission is inspired by the legacy of Fr. Ellacuría and his five Jesuit and two lay companions, martyred at the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) in El Salvador, in 1989. “Father Ellacuría, S.J.,’s ministry throughout his life and martyrdom serve as a prophetic witness of the Gospel vision of justice and peace,” noted Kerr. 

Previously, the Catholic Church in El Salvador promoted the cause of beatification and canonization of the martyred archbishop St. Óscar Romero, archbishop of San Salvador who was assassinated in March 1980 by a death squad. Romero was beatified in 2015 and canonized in 2018.

In 2022, the Jesuit Fr. Rutilio Grande, S.J., who was assassinated in 1977 by the Salvadoran Army, was also beatified.

Many other religious and lay Catholics were tortured or also martyred throughout this period, including Ursuline Sr. Dorothy Kazel, Maryknoll Srs. Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, and lay missioner Jean Donovan.

The Salvadoran Civil War, which involved the U.S.-funded Salvadoran army and the guerrillas of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), left an estimated 75,000 dead and 8,000 missing.

“While we celebrate the good news about the canonization process, we also lament the tens of thousands of innocent lives lost to state-sponsored violence throughout El Salvador’s Civil War and the long-lasting harm caused by U.S. military funding and political intervention,” noted Kerr. “Through the invocation of Fr. Ellacuría, that those in El Salvador and the United States can work collectively to build more just and peaceful societies in our own countries and beyond.”

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