El Salvador marks anniversary of Jesuit’s martyrdom as beatification nears

By Catholic News Service
Wednesday, March 18, 2020

WASHINGTON — Even as the government of El Salvador announced a nationwide quarantine, hundreds flocked to a pilgrimage site March 12 to remember a Jesuit priest and his companions killed 43 years ago and declared martyrs by Pope Francis in February.

A Mass for Salvadoran Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande at the site where he was martyred along with two parishioners March 12, 1977, near his hometown of El Paisnal, was canceled after the government prohibited gatherings of more than 250 as a precaution to prevent coronavirus from spreading. Instead, the Archdiocese of San Salvador asked parishes to celebrate “our martyrs” in their respective localities.

The three were murdered en route to a novena to celebrate the feast of St. Joseph, though the main target was Grande, killed because he helped the poor. In his efforts to teach the poor to read using the Bible, Grande also organized them so they could speak against a rich and powerful minority: the coffee farmers and landowners, who oppressed them.

On March 12, the Salvadoran Catholic TV station Television Catolica showed hundreds headed to the church where Grande is buried, along with elderly parishioner Manuel Solorzano and teenager Nelson Rutilio Lemus, who died with him.

The Vatican announced Feb. 22 that Pope Francis has recognized their martyrdom. Papal recognition of their martyrdom clears the way for their beatification, although the Vatican has not announced a date or place for the ceremony.


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