Related topics

Archbishop, at Funeral for Massacred Priests, Laments ‘Barbarity’ With AM-Salvador, Bjt

November 19, 1989

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) _ The archbishop of San Salvador, speaking at the funeral Mass for six slain Jesuit priests, said, ″these brutal murders place our country in the first place of barbarity in the world.″

Roman Catholic Monsignor Arturo Rivera Damas said of the massacre, ″There exists the vehement presumption that the murders were committed by members of the armed forces or people in intimate connivance with them.″

About 800 mourners, many of them weeping, crowded the chapel at Simeon Canas Central American University or stood outside listening to the service broadcast over loudspeakers.

The bodies of the priests were placed in a crypt in the chapel at the university where they worked and where they were killed early Thursday. Also slain were their cook, Elba Ramos and her 15-year-old daughter Celina. They were buried in a family tomb.

President Alfredo Cristiani, who attended the funeral service at the university auditorium, has promised that those responsible for the massacre will be punished.

Rivera Damas told reporters, ″We hold him (Cristiani) to his word.″

Others attending the funeral included Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Pacas, U.S. Ambassador William Walker and the ambassadors of Mexico, Spain and Costa Rica.

The Rev. Jose Maria Tojeira, head of the Jesuit order in Central America, said in a homily at the service, ″Love is stronger than death. The colleagues and disciples of our deceased brothers will always be at the side of the poor.″

″With this murder they have not killed the Society of Jesus. They have not killed the Central American University,″ said Tojeira, tears streaming down his face.

In a message read at the Mass, Pope John Paul II expressed his hope that ″the sacrifice of these priests becomes the seed of fraternal love and an inspiration that we become each day more complete artisans of peace.″

Other priests reported two witnesses, who they declined to identify, said they saw about 30 men in military uniforms enter the house where the victims were sleeping before dawn Thursday - shortly before the shooting began.

The eight were roused from bed, shot and their brains removed as a macabre message to intellectuals who advocate changes in Salvadoran society to aid the poor.

The six priests had been accused by the government-controlled news media of sympathizing with the rebels.

Militant members of Cristiani’s Republican Nationalist Alliance, or Arena, have frequently said liberal Catholic priests and Protestant missionary workers are supporting the rebels who have been waging war against U.S.-backed governments for more than 10 years.

Attorney General Mauricio Colorado said Sunday that Rivera Damas and a Roman Catholic auxiliary bishop should leave El Salvador for their own safety. In a letter to the pope released Saturday, Colorado accused ″certain bishops″ of fomenting violence and asked they be withdrawn.

The six priests were slain as guerrillas and troops battled through the outskirts of San Salvador in an offensive the rebels launched Nov. 11.

Two of the victims were the university rector, Ignacio Ellacuria, and Ignacio Martin-Baro, one of the region’s polling specialists.

Rivera Damas has been an oustpoken advocate of a cease-fire and truce in the war that has claimed more than 70,000 lives. The pope also has appealed for a resumption of peace talks broken off earlier this month.

Update hourly