My first visit to Oscar Romero’s tomb in the Cathedral of San Salvador was in April 1989. The Cathedral is in el centro with all the noise and hurly-burly of buses and other traffic. The building was not finished. Steel rods protruded from the rough concrete shell of the building waiting for other parts of the structure. (Romero had halted all construction because he did not think it was right for the church to be spending money on its building when the people were suffering from poverty and human rights abuses.) On the steps were women from COMADRES with their bullhorns protesting against the latest wave of repression. Inside, scraps of linoleum were on the floor along with scattered plain wooden benches. In the right transept was Romero’s tomb–plain concrete covered with flowers and prayers of the people. As I stood there, the words “My body broken for you” from the Christian sacrament of communion echoed in my mind. Tears still come when I remember being in that place at that time. (See Post: My Pilgrimage to El Salvador, April 1989 (May 25, 2011).)
In March 2000 on the 20th anniversary of Romero’s assassination I visited the Cathedral again. The construction of the building had been completed. In a formal sense, the exterior was beautiful with ceramic tiles by the country’s great artist, Fernando Llort, surrounding the main entrance. The tomb had been moved to the crypt and was more formal and elegant. But it had lost its spiritual power for me.
March 2010 marked the 30th anniversary of the assassination when I returned to the Cathedral. The tomb had been moved again, now to a more central and prominent part of the crypt. It was totally covered with flowers, pictures and other things so that it was impossible to tell what the tomb itself looked like. Only when I found photographs on the Internet could I see the tomb itself. At the four corners of the bronze tomb, sculptured figures of Salvadorans are rising from the horizontal image of the dead Romero with his Archbishop’s Mitre. The artist apparently was inspired by Romero’s statement shortly before he was assassinated, “If they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadoran people.” The separate elements of this tomb are beautifully executed, but as a whole it is depressing. All I could think, what an ugly brass four-poster bed. I extend my apologies to Romero and the artist.