On February 21, Pope Francis approved the beatification of Padre Rutilio Grande, a Salvadoran Jesuit priest who was murdered on March 12, 1977, by a Salvadoran death squad for his advocacy for people who were persecuted by the country’s military and death squads.
His ministry and slaying inspired then Archbishop Oscar Romero (now Saint Romero) to become an outspoken critic of the country’s military and advocate for El Salvador’s oppressed.
Pope Francis has long expressed his intense admiration for both Grande and Romero. At the entrance to his room at the Vatican hotel where the Pope lives is a piece of cloth with Romero’s blood on it and notes from a catechism teaching Grande delivered. Last year during a visit to Panama, the Pope said,“I was a devotee of Rutilio even before coming to know Romero better. When I was [a priest] in Argentina, his life influenced me, his death touched me. He said what he had to say, but it was his testimony, his martyrdom, that eventually moved Romero. This was the grace.”
The official Vatican News stated the news of this beatification as follows:
- “The Pope also recognized the martyrdom of the Servants of God Rutilio Grande García, a Jesuit priest, and his 2 lay companions, who were killed in hatred of the faith in El Salvador on March 12, 1977.”
- “Murdered before the start of the Salvadoran civil war, Father Grande, who was a close friend of fellow Salvadoran and martyr, Saint Oscar Romero, became an icon for human rights in rural Latin America.”
- “Known for his vigorous defence of poor, the Jesuit priest, an elderly man and a teenager were shot by a right-wing death squad as they were travelling in a car outside the village where he was born.”
- “The horror that the assassination of Fr. Grande generated led Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador to take up the Jesuit’s mantle as a defender of the poor. Three years later, Romero would succumb to the assassins’ bullets for his outspoken criticism of the military and work on behalf of El Salvador’s oppressed.”
- “The decree on the martyrdom of Fr. Grande and his two companions does away with the need for a miracle through their intercession to qualify for beatification, the final step before sainthood, for which a miracle would be required. The beatification date will be declared at a later date.”
In March 2003, this blogger was in El Salvador and attended a memorial mass for Father Grande at the church in the village of El Paisnal, where he had served as the parish priest, and stopped to pay my respects at Grande’s memorial on the road to the village where he had been murdered.
 Gomes, Indian martyr, Devasahayam, cleared for sainthood, Vatican News (Feb. 22, 2020); Reuters, Pope Moves Slain Salvadoran Priest, Icon for Poor, Closer to Sainthood, N.Y. Times (Feb. 22, 2020); Assoc. Press, Pope Oks Beatification for Rutilio Grande, Salvadoran Martyr, N.Y. Times (Feb. 22, 2020).
 See posts listed in the “ Oscar Romero” section of List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: El Salvador.