“No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. No one has to comply with an immoral law. It is time now that you recover your conscience and obey its dictates rather than the command of sin.… In the name of God, then, and in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more tumultuously every day, I beseech you, I beg you, I order you, in the name of God, stop the repression!”
These are the words that Óscar Romero spoke to the soldiers of El Salvador’s military on March 23, 1980. The exhortation concluded his final Sunday homily as archbishop of El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador. The next day a gunman assassinated Archbishop Romero while he was saying mass in a chapel on the grounds of a hospital for cancer patients.
Romero was known as the voice of the voiceless because he had the courage to speak out in favor of those in El Salvador who did not have money or power. He denounced the military for torturing and killing innocent Salvadorans, and criticized the country’s wealthy families for underwriting the violence. In the year that followed Romero’s murder, over 10,000 other civilians died in a wave of repression that led to a twelve-year civil war.
In 2002, as a young attorney at the Center for Justice & Accountability (CJA), Matt Eisenbrandt became involved in an investigation of Romero’s killers. The case began because Álvaro Saravia, a former Air Force captain and one of the ringleaders of the plot against Romero, was living freely just two hours from CJA’s offices in San Francisco.
In September 2003, lawyers from CJA and a private law firm filed a lawsuit against Saravia in California. For the next twelve months, Eisenbrandt and the other attorneys, along with Salvadoran colleagues and U.S. investigators, interviewed eyewitnesses and former members of death squads while searching for evidence against the conspirators and those who financed them. Within a year, they won a $10 million verdict against Saravia for killing Archbishop Romero. But the story did not end there, as witnesses continued to come forward over the following years to disclose important details about the murder plot.
Assassination of a Saint is the story of that fascinating investigation, the groundbreaking trial that followed, and the repercussions of Romero’s assassination that are still being felt in El Salvador and the United States today.BUY NOW