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On 22 January last, in the Plaza del Divino Salvador del Mundo in San Salvador, the beatification of four martyrs of the Salvadoran Church took place: Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande and his fellow martyrs Nelson Rutilio Lemus and Manuel Solórzano.

Among them, our Franciscan brother Br Cosmas Spessotto, an Italian missionary who gave his life defending the rights of Christ and his Church[1] in the Church of San Juan Nonualco, in the department of La Paz, stands out uniquely. Under the title of martyr for reconciliation and peace, the Franciscan friars of the El Salvador region have asked the Provincial Government to make the recent Blessed the patron of all the JPIC offices of the Province of Central America and Haiti.

The petition arises from this experience and exemplarity around these values of the Franciscan charism: the defence of life and human dignity in the face of all forms of death and oppression, social resistance based on active non-violence, the sincere search for reconciliation between two armed sides in conflict, concrete solidarity with the pain of an impoverished people and the quest for justice to its ultimate consequences: the total surrender of one’s own life.

It is essential to highlight the political and social context our country is going through, where the government has sold the idea that the Peace Accords have been a deception for decades. These sentiments challenge us to proclaim that our martyrs can help us to recover our memory and hope and not give up the dream of a reconciled and peaceful country, a country as our God wants it: just, fraternal and in solidarity, as Cardinal Gregorio said in his homily at the beatification. The Pope’s delegate insisted on recovering the Peace Accords’ spirit and the path laid out there.[2]

The four newly proclaimed Blessed Martyrs are a source of historical memory and evangelical inspiration for the entire Franciscan Family, including many non-believers in this country, so that we can continue to build a more just, united and peaceful country.

In his speech at the beatification ceremony, our Minister Provincial, Br Luis Enrique Saldaña, said St Francis called the first martyrs in Morocco true Friars Minor. Today, El Salvador has a true Friar Minor in the person of Br Cosmas Spessotto. Through his intercession, the friars on pilgrimage in these lands offer to be instruments of peace for this Salvadorian society and the world. Still, for this to become a reality in Salvadorian society, justice must be done in the country.

He also recalled that with the canonisation of Saint Romero and thanks to the Second Vatican Council, we have recognised that martyrdom for the defence of human rights exists. Faith itself helps us see that every human being in this world has the dignity of being a creature made by God. Therefore, defending the dignity of the human being, of what has been created by God, is the responsibility of the Church and every son, every daughter of our good God.[3]

Under the intercession of Br Cosmas, true Friar Minor, Blessed, martyr of reconciliation and peace and patron of the service of the offices of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, we commit ourselves to work for dialogue and concord with civil, social and environmental movements. We reject all violent options of conflict but instead opt for the means of peaceful processes that are within reach of even the weakest.[4]

In this way, the brothers and sisters who make up the JPIC Office in El Salvador are actively committed to defending the rights of Christ, of his Church and of every human being who shares in the profound cries of our country. This becomes concretely real for us in continuing to fight for the Human Right to Water, accessible, clean and abundant; as well as the Right to migrate, as well as to improve living conditions in this country so as not to migrate; the Right to food sovereignty to guarantee food security for the people and the Right to civil liberties and democratic institutions in full force in our country.

May the example of the martyrs of the entire Salvadoran Church, beatified and un-beatified, help us to carry forward this arduous task of establishing the Kingdom of God in history.

JPIC Office El Salvador


[1] Testament of Blessed Cosmas Spessotto

[2] “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation” (Rev 7:14). Homily of Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez at the Beatification Mass of four martyrs, 22 January 2022.

[3] Words of gratitude at the Beatification Ceremony by Br Luis Enrique Saldaña, OFM. Saturday, 22nd January 2022.

[4] General Constitutions of the Order of Friars Minor, art. 69, 1..