Che do bheatha Romero

A rare colour shot of Che Guevara.

A rare colour shot of Che Guevara.

Insider has noted the reaction of people of the political persuasion of Declan Ganley to the idea of Galway erecting a monument (at no cost to the taxpayers ) to Che Guevara and it prompted him to pen the following in response to Mr Ganley’s slurs that Guevara was a “mass murderer”, just to set it in context.

So, what have a Central American Archbishop and an Argentinean born revolutionary with Irish blood got in common? Absolutely nothing you might say - one a man of God and the other of the gun, both poles apart? Not so. Read on.

Archbishop Oscar Romero - martyr

Archbishop of San Salvador Oscar Romero, in speaking to the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium on February 2, 1980, said:

“In less than three years, more than 50 priests have been attacked, threatened, calumniated. Six are already martyrs - they were murdered. Some have been tortured and others expelled [from the country]. Nuns have been persecuted. The Archdiocesan radio station and educational institutions that are Catholic or of a Christian inspiration have been attacked, threatened, intimidated, even bombed.

“Several parish communities have been raided. If all this happened to persons who are the most evident representatives of the Church, you can guess what has happened to ordinary Christians, to the campesinos, catechists, lay ministers, and to the ecclesiastical base communities. There have been threats, arrests, tortures, murders, numbering in the hundreds and thousands….

“But it is important to note why [the Church] has been persecuted. Not any and every priest has been persecuted, not any and every institution has been attacked. That part of the Church that has been attacked and persecuted is that which put itself on the side of the people and went to the people’s defence. Here again we find the same key to understanding the persecution of the Church: THE POOR.”

One month later, on March 24, Archbishop Romero was assassinated while celebrating Mass at a small chapel in a hospital only a day after he called on Salvadoran soldiers to stop carrying out the government’s repression of the poor and violations of basic human rights.

Romero would have been considered by Rome to be a safe pair of hands for the post to Archbishop of El Salvador. Liberation theology priests feared his conservative views would negatively affect their commitment to the poor.

It was the assassination of his personal friend Fr Rutilio Grande, a progressive Jesuit who had been working on self-reliance groups among the poor campesinos that changed his views: “When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought, if they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path.”

A cause for beatification and canonisation was opened for Romero, and Pope John Paul II bestowed upon him the title Servant of God. He is often referred to as “San Romero” or St Romero by Catholics in El Salvador. He is one of the 10 20th century martyrs who are depicted in statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey in London.

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara - martyr

Ernesto Guevara-Lynch and Celia de la Serna y de la Llosa both came from wealthy backgrounds but had a huge social conscience which was to rub off on their son Ernestito, who would in adulthood be nicknamed ‘Che’.

The young Ernesto suffered from asthma. As a child he was forced to decide whether he would become a victim or a survivor. His strength of character made the choice easy: Ernestito did not choose victimhood. His parents were determined he should lead as normal a life as possible. They encouraged him to practise sports, to swim and enjoy the outdoors, and he determined early on that he would not let the asthma bring him down or interfere with anything he wanted to do.

In his teens, Guevara had been attracted to the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi who advocated non-violence, but when he was captured in Bolivia at the age of 39 he had a weapon in his hand.

He had turned to violence early in life when he decided on the futility of any other way of resisting European and US dominance. The Irish revolutionary Tom Barry, whose tactics were studied by Che said: “The British had gone down in the mire to destroy us and our nation and down after them we had to go.”

These words would resonate in the ears of Che. Similarly the USA had gone down in the mire, not of a nation but of a whole continent.

Che was not black, he was not hungry, nobody had trampled him underfoot, he had access to education and yet he understood like no one else the plight of those who had nothing - THE POOR.

You do not have to accept all his ideals and political choices to see that Che’s was a remarkable, inspiring, and in many ways, exemplary life. He started life as a carefree upper-class Argentine boy in search of fun and adventure. His fun and adventures across a continent opened his eyes to the plight of the disenfranchised, the dispossessed, the exploited, and the poor, which led him to become a revolutionary who would fight for the downtrodden of two continents and lay down his life for his fellow man.

The New York Times journalist Herbert L Matthews who spent time with Che during the Cuban revolt says: “His dedication to his revolutionary beliefs was deeply religious. Che had a missionary’s faith in the innate goodness of man, in the ability of workers to dedicate themselves to ideals and to overcome selfishness and prejudices. It was the other side of the coin of his indignation against injustice and exploitation of the humble. He saw the solution in an exalted form of Marxism that would bring freedom and brotherhood. Such men are born to be martyrs.”

Oscar Romero and Che Guevara - both larger than life, so their enemies had to kill them-only to discover that they were both larger than death. The enemy

and commonality: IMPERIALISM.

The belly of the beast

Finally if Mr Ganley is looking for mass murderers he need look no further than “the belly of the beast”. Has Mr Ganley ever heard of the School of the Americas, better known as the “School of the Assassins” formerly based in Panama but in recent times based in Fort Benning, Georgia?

He might contact Fr Roy Bourgeois of School of the Americas Watch or even US Congressman Joseph Kennedy (another one of our own ).

“The US Army School of the Americas is a school that has run more dictators than any other school in the history of the world” said Kennedy. Oscar Romero was murdered by one of the school’s graduates cum laude.

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