While the beatification ceremony for Oscar Romero will be held on Saturday in Plaza El Salvador del Mundo in San Salvador, many pilgrims are also visiting La Capilla del Hospital Divina Providencia, the small church where Romero was assassinated while celebrating mass on March 24, 1980. Some of Romero's bloodstained vestments can still be seen in a nearby museum.
As Romero stood at the altar that day after finishing his homily, a jeep pulled up outside the back doors of the church; as a shot rang out, Romero fell backwards at the foot of the cross. The attached photo, taken from that altar, shows what would have been Romero's view in the final moments of his life; the assassins' vehicle and even the gunman himself would have been visible to Romero through the open doors.
Just two weeks earlier, he had spoken the following words to a journalist: "I have been frequently threatened with death. I must say that, as a Christian, I do not believe in death but in resurrection. If they kill me, I will rise again in the people of El Salvador. I am not boasting; I say it with the greatest humility. As a pastor, I am bound by a divine command to give my life for those whom I love, and that includes all Salvadorans, even those who are going to kill me. If they manage to carry out their threats, I shall be offering my blood for the redemption and the resurrection of El Salvador. Martyrdom is a grace from God that I do not believe I have earned. But if God accepts the sacrifice of my life, then may my blood be the seed of liberty and a sign of the hope that will soon become a reality. May my death, if it is accepted by God, be for the liberation of my people and a witness of hope in what is to come."
In other Romero news, A procession tonight from the Cathedral to Plaza El Salvador del Mundo (through thunderstorms) was one of the final ritual moments before Saturday's 10am mass. Already vendors are lining the main "paseo" near my hotel, working through the rain and lightning to prepare for a crowd now projected by some to exceed 300,000.
Interested viewers can watch the ceremony here: http://tvcaelsalvador.org