Rutilio Grande was a Jesuit priest who was murdered by El Salvador's military in 1977 for his work empowering poor communities in the countryside. His murder was an event which made clear to San Salvador's new archbishop Oscar Romero, the kind of pastoral leader he would need to be.
The Roman Catholic church has now opened the process which could lead to Rutilio Grande's canonization as a saint. As reported by Carlos Colorado, the phase of the process conducted in the church in El Salvador concluded in August and the cause now goes to Rome.
Thomas M. Kelly wrote in America magazine in June of this year:
What Father Grande learned and lived out was a simple truth: Until the marginalized communities he served created their own agency, until they acted upon their own reality as a church community, nothing would change. An outside leader could not come in and transform poor communities. Only local lay church leaders could encourage communities to become agents of their own change. The role of the Catholic Church, he believed, was to help those leaders emerge, support them, form them and walk with them. Inspired by the Gospel, these community leaders would become the most effective agents for the integrated development of their communities.
For two years Father Grande and his team led a delicate “mission” to very poor communities around his hometown. Through their own reading of Scripture, these communities came to realize that it was not God’s will that they remain poor. Building the kingdom of God meant they needed to advocate for their communities in ways that were peaceful—but forceful. Throughout Father Grande’s pastoral “experiment” in the rural villages of El Salvador, Archbishop Romero carefully watched his friend and confidant try to apply the social teaching of the church to the reality of poor, oppressed rural communities.
Slowly people began to change their mindset and realize their oppression was not the will of God but actually contrary to God’s love for them. But as their awareness and demands for change grew, so, too, did the danger they faced. Soon threats came in against both Father Grande and the communities he served, mainly from wealthy landowners who felt threatened by the priest’s work encouraging rural farmers to organize for a better life. Archbishop Romero witnessed the risks taken by Father Grande and saw the road he willingly chose in defense of the people he loved. On March 12, 1977, Father Grande was assassinated by government death squads at the behest of wealthy landowners.Kelly is the author of the splendid book, "When the Gospel Grows Feet: Rutilio Grande, S.J. and the Church of El Salvador."
In March 2015, the confession of one of the members of El Salvador's National Guard who participated in the assassination was published in ContraPunto.
Many in El Salvador hope that there could be a joint celebration in El Salvador involving the beatification of Rutilio Grande and the canonization of Oscar Romero presided over by Pope Francis. The pope is said to be in favor of advancing the cause of Father Grande.
The words of Rutilo Grande continue to have relevance today:
Has the wealthy minority - who hold in their hands the economy, the power of decision, the control of the press and all the media - been transfigured? There are many baptized in our country who have not completely ingested the demands of the gospel: a total transfiguration. The Christian revolution is based on a love which excludes no single human being. Jesus, after all, enfleshed himself as one of our peasants to share their miseries. Can we call ourselves his followers and not do the same?
|Statue of Oscar Romero and Rutilio Grande in El Paisnal|
|Statue of Rutilio Grande at St. Joseph church in El Paisnal|
|Tombs of Rutilio Grande, Manuel Solorzano, and Nelson Lemus in|
St. Joseph Church
|Monument at site of Rutilio Grande's assassination|
|Portrait of Rutilio Grande|