St Peter's RC Church Shoreham-by-Sea West Sussex lnglaterra 20 January 1989 Dear Friends in Latin America, I have a tiny rose-garden in front of my terraced Victorian house. The soil is chalky and the air is full of salt from the English Channel, but the roses don't seem to mind; on the contrary, they seem to thrive on hardship.
On my writing-desk I have a portrait of Archbishop Oscar Romero, murdered in 1980 by a Salvadoran death-squad. Each Sunday I put a single rose, white or red, in front of his picture. I have a sort of belief (half superstitious perhaps, but let him who is without superstition cast the first stone) that as long as a rose blooms in front of my picture of "Saint Romero" shall never forget the poor and the oppressed in any part of the world.
We had two very cold weeks in November; the roses fought hard against the frost, and some of them won the battle. December came and there were roses in December. For the week of Christmas an exquisite white bloom opened its petals slowly,
day by day, in front of my favourite saint.
And now it is January. It should be mid-winter, and everybody in Shoreham-by-Sea is amazed that there are roses still blooming in January, because the weather is so exceptionally mild this year.
On the first day of January the newspapers and the television were full of the New Year messages of presidents, prelates and priests. But for me the best message of 1989 was tucked away on page nine column three of The Independent.
"The Sisters of Mercy of The Union have decided to close down all their private, feepaying schools in Great Britain in order to return to the ideals of their foundress: to dedicate themselves entirely to the poor and the powerless."
I wanted to embrace every one
of those brave nuns with a Latin American hug! The Holy Spirit has not totally abandoned this yuppified corner of northwestern Europe! Dios vive — God lives! The presidents and the prelates — educated for the most part in private, fee-paying schools — will not have the last word.
The roses in front of my house would never win a trophy or a certificate. No passer-by delays his steps to admire their grace. But the mildness of the weather means that Archbishop Romero's photograph has not been rose-less until now.
Yesterday a friend in Peru sent me a book of sermons and other sayings of "Saint Romero". I turned to the last page and read the words he pronounced a few minutes before the bullets pierced his outsized heart:
"Thi is the hope that should encourage all Christians: that every attempt to bring about a better and more equal society — above all when that society is saturated with injustice — is an attempt that God blesses, that God desires, and that God demands!"
Viva San Romero!