Packed and appreciative audiences in Edinburgh, York, Nottingham and London have attended the 2009 Archbishop Romero Lecture, delivered by Fr Dean Brackley SJ, Professor of Theology and Ethics at the Catholic University in El Salvador.
Commemorating the assassination of Romero on 24 March 1980, he addressed the theme, Crosses and Resurrections in El Salvador: The Wider North-South Divide and Our Vocation to Solidarity.
Fr Dean Brackley, an inspiring speaker, was introduced each time by Clare Dixon of CAFOD and Julian Filochowski, the Chair of the UK-based Romero Trust. Fr Brackley is a New York Jesuit who has worked and taught theology in the Jesuit University in San Salvador since the murder there of six Jesuits and their two co-workers in 1989. He focused on how Romero and the Central American martyrs challenge Christians in the North today.
“The Catholic Church is well-positioned to globalise solidarity with the poor and well-positioned to protect our embattled environment,” he said at the London event in Westminster Cathedral Hall on 17 February. He felt a “critical mass” of people concerned about addressing poverty was growing exponentially, and church people were involved internationally.
In El Salvador, the Jesuits and other church people are working with the two-thirds of the population who live in poverty, one-third of them in extreme poverty. He said their desperation was most visible in the hundreds who migrate to the United States every single day. In fact, he noted, “in a few decades, the majority of the Salvadoreans will be living in the US”. Yet he remarked how visitors to El Salvador, “wonder why the people are smiling and sharing their few tortillas with visiting strangers”. He felt he had learnt much from people and communities who are excluded from mainstream society and often regarded as being unimportant.
Fr Brackley regretted that “the prophetic vision of a Church of the poor had never been adopted by the majority of the Church in Central America”. He shared the view of Romero that “the poor are the crucified vicars of Christ among us”. He also feared that young Salvadoreans raised in the cities and in front of TVs, “know more about Britney Spears than Oscar Romero”.
However, he saw real signs of hope in “the growing solidarity of our time”. Fr Brackley repeated the phrase “Another World is Possible”, coined at the World Social Forum in Mumbai, Indi. Jesuits have played significant roles in the annual World Social Forums, the latest of which was held in Brazil last month. These meetings attract movements and organisations trying to build a more democratic and fair world and they tend to coincide with and offer an alternative approach to the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos, Switzerland attended by bankers, business executives and government finance ministers.
Words of thanks were addressed to Fr Brackley at the London event by Bishop John Arnold, auxiliary in Westminster, who reflected that, “you have reminded us about living the Gospel in our times. He said that in this Year of St Paul, “we are reminded about the wisdom of Paul who, even in the first generation of the Church, understood that ‘belief’ is not enough”. He added that “if we are to be true Christians, our Faith needs to influence our decisions, our actions and they way we live together in community and in our witness to the world”.
In Edinburgh, Cardinal Keith O’Brien paid warm tribute to Fr Brackley and announced that he planned to travel to San Salvador in November this year for the celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the Jesuit martyrs.
Dean Brackley's visit was sponsored by Archbishop Romero Trust in conjunction with CAFOD, the Lauriston Centre in Edinburgh, Nottingham Justice and Peace Commission, York St. John University, Friends of Westminster Cathedral and The Tablet magazine.
The lecture can be found here: http://www.thinkingfaith.org/articles/20090218_1.htm
At 12.00 (midday) on Saturday 28 March 2009, there will be an ecumenical prayer service at St Martin in the Fields Church in Trafalgar Square, London, to mark the 29th anniversary of Archbishop Romero’s assassination. The preacher will be Fr Frank Turner SJ from the Archbishop Romero Trust.