Commentary on the First Work of Justice and Peace

from the homilies of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador

+ Live simply and justly in solidarity with the poor and
marginalized and be a good neighbor. Make no war on them,
rather, be one with them in spirit, truth, and love.


The poor have shown the church the true way to go. A church that
does not join the poor, in order to speak out from the side of
the poor against the injustices committed against them, is not
the true church of Jesus Christ. February 17, 1980

The church's social teaching tells everyone that the Christian
religion does not have a merely horizontal meaning, or a merely
spiritualized meaning that overlooks the wretchedness that
surrounds it. It is a looking at god, and from God at one's
neighbor as a brother or sister, and an awareness that "whatever
you did to one of these, you did to me." March 14, 1977

We must not seek the child Jesus in the pretty figures of our
Christmas ribs. We must seek him among the undernourished
children who have gone to bed tonight with nothing to eat, among
the poor newsboys who will sleep covered with newspapers in
doorways. December 24, 1979

We wish to shake our baptized people out of habits that threaten
to make them practically baptized pagans, idolaters of their
money and power. What sort of baptized persons are these? Those
who want to bear the mark of the Spirit and the fire that Christ
baptizes with must take the risk of renouncing everything and
seeking only God's reign and his justice.

Salvadorans marked by Christ's baptism, which is Spirit and
fire, must be Salvadorans of eternal hope, they cannot yield to
pessimism. Neither must they let an earthly political program
exhaust their ideals of eternal glory and triumph. The great
hope of baptized Salvadorans must stand above all the desperate
plans of the earth's political leaders.

What an honor to think that all of you before me are Christ!
Even the humblest peasant, who may be pondering there next to a
radio, you are Christ! For your baptism is one with the death
and resurrection of the Lord. January 13, 1980

When we say "for the poor," we do not take sides with one social
class, please note. What we do, according to Puebla, is invite
all social classes, rich and poor without distinction, saying to
everyone: Let us take seriously the cause of the poor as though
it were our own -- indeed, as what it really is, the cause of
Jesus Christ, who on the final judgment day will call to
salvation those who treated the poor with faith in him. "Whatever
you did to one of these poor ones -- the neglected, blind, lame,
deaf, mute -- you did to me." September 9, 1979

The human progress that Christ wants to promote is that of whole
persons-- in their transcendent dimension, and their historical
dimension, in their spiritual dimension and their bodily
dimension. Whole persons must be saved, persons in their social
relationships, who won't consider some people more human than
others, but will view all as brothers and sisters and give
preference to the weakest and neediest. This is the integral
human salvation that the church wants to bring about -- a hard
mission! Often the church will be cataloged with communistic or
revolutionary subversives. But the church knows what its
revolution is: the revolution of Christ's love.

Mary and the church in Latin America are marked by poverty.
Vatican Council II says that Mary stands out among the poor who
await redemption from God. Mary appears in the Bible as the
expression of poverty, of humility, of one who needs everything
from God.

When she comes to America, her intimate, motherly converse is
with an Indian, an outcast, a poor man. Mary's dialog in America
begins with a sign of poverty, poverty that is hunger for God,
poverty that is joy of independence. Poverty is freedom.
Poverty is needing others, needing brothers and sisters,
supporting one another so as to help one another. This is what
Mary means and what the church means in Latin America.

If at some time the church betrayed its spirit of poverty, then
it was unfaithful to the gospel, which meant it to be distinct
from the powers of the earth, not depending on the money that
makes humans happy, but depending on the power of Christ, on
God's power. That is its greatness. Feast of Our Lady of
Guadalupe, 1977

When we speak of the church of the poor, we are not using
Marxist dialectic, as though there were another church of the
rich. What we are saying is that Christ, inspired by the Spirit
of God, declared, "The Lord has sent me to preach good news to
the poor" -- words of the Bible -- so that to hear him one must
become poor. December 3, 1978

I am glad, brothers and sisters, that our church is persecuted
precisely for its preferential option for the poor and for trying
to become incarnate in the interest of the poor and for saying to
all the people, to rulers, to the rich and powerful: unless you
become poor, unless you have a concern for the poverty of our
people as though they were your own family, you will not be able
to save society. July 15, 1979

The church's good name is not a matter of being on good terms
with the powerful. The church's good name is a matter of knowing
that the poor regard the church as their own, of knowing that the
church's life on earth is to call on all, on the rich as well, to
be converted and to be saved alongside the poor, for they are the
only ones called blessed. February 17, 1980