Guest post by Carlos X. Colorado
The new Archbishop of San Salvador, Msgr. Jose Luis Escobar Alas took possession of his archdiocese in a solemn ceremony at the San Salvador Metropolitan Cathedral, attended by cardinals and government officials, including the outgoing ARENA President of El Salvador and the outgoing FMLN mayor of San Salvador, who took turns reading from Scripture at the ceremony. The 49 year-old new archbishop offered a striking contrast both in style and in substance to the man he is replacing, the 75 year-old Msgr. Fernando Saenz Lacalle.
Where Saenz’ homilies were typically light fare, Escobar’s inaugural homily was methodical and thoughtful, striking many notes that should be music to the ears of San Salvador clergy and lay activists, many of whom have grown weary of Saenz. Most dramatically, Escobar reiterated off the bat that he remains opposed to gold mining in El Salvador for the foreseeable future. Appearing to close off any possibility of reconsidering or revisiting the question any time soon, Escobar argued that “we are too small and too populated a country, and we have suffered so much that it is not possible that we should also have to suffer” from what he said would be large scale permanent water contamination, if mining operations were begun.
Escobar also promised to work “shoulder to shoulder” with the priests of the archdiocese, a perhaps unintended knock at the retiring Saenz, who has been seen as aloof and removed from the clergy and from lay groups. Additionally, the conservative Saenz has been accused of leading purges of progressive clergy. Importantly, Escobar promised that the work of the Church will be impartial, but “if we must have some preference, it will be in favor of the sick and of the poorest of the poor.”
In this last regard, Escobar used a powerful image: his own episcopal seal, which he described as a large Communion chalice, with the Blessed Virgin at its base. Escobar said that, beside Virgin Mary, on his seal were a poor man, lying on the street, and his daughter begging for a handout. By this image, Escobar said he sought to illustrate “the great rotational axes of my ministry” -- love of the Blessed Sacrament, love of the Blessed Virgin, and love of the poor -- and the correspondence between the poor and body of Christ. A similar theology underscored the ministry of the three archbishops that preceded Archbishop Saenz. Escobar said this was the Christian ministry of the 21st Century.
Escobar said he offered his “extended hand” to Salvadorans in the country and abroad, and to the priests of the diocese.
The new archbishop got his biggest applause line when he invoked the name of his most famous predecessor, the late Archbishop Romero, assassinated in March 1980 at the beginning of the civil war. In a methodical presentation, Escobar invoked each of the nine bishops that preceded him, distilling the contribution of each man to a summarizing phrase (the first, Bishop Viteri, was “admirable for his brilliant intelligence;” the next man, Bishop Pineda, was “zealous and valiant;” Bishop Carcamo was “a spiritual bishop, deeply devoted to the Lord St. Joseph,” etc.). When he got to Romero (“the martyr bishop”), the crowd erupted into sustained applause. Escobar returned to Romero after he finished the litany of the bishops, saying that, “I invoke in a special way the intercession of Archbishop Romero, who watches us from Heaven, and accompanies and blesses us.”
Archbishop Escobar will be able to preside over the San Salvador archdiocese for over a quarter century if his health holds up.\
See video highlights of the ceremony at this link.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Guest post by Carlos X. Colorado