Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis
Chairman, Committee on International Policy
March 19, 1993
The release of the U.N. Truth Commissions report on the conduct of El Salvadors twelve-year conflict offers a welcome opportunity to reflect on some of the lessons of that war. That it comes in the midst of the Churchs observance of Lent, and just before the anniversary of Archbishop Romeros assassination, lends special meaning to this moment.
It has been almost thirteen years since the archbishop was slain. Only now, with the peace process nearly complete, has a formal investigation into this crime been possible. These years have been a long period of suffering for El Salvador, but the time of Easter is now much closer. We offer prayerful thanks to God for the end of this war, and we renew our expression of admiration and gratitude to the church of El Salvador for its steadfast witness to the works of peace and justice.
In the killings which have particularly touched us that of the archbishop, the four missionary women, the US labor advisers, the Jesuits and their co-workers as in the other outstanding crimes of the war, the first requirement is that the truth be known. Reconciliation cannot go forward while the facts are hidden and responsibility denied. We commend the courage of those who have brought their testimony before the Truth Commission, and urge the further release of information relevant to these crimes, whether in the possession of the Salvadoran or of our own government.
Through all these years of conflict, Archbishop Rivera Damas, like Archbishop Romero before him, tirelessly drew attention to the violations of basic rights that others sought to hide, or deny. His human rights office carried out extensive investigations, presented complaints before the courts, and chronicled the sad history of political crime in the country. It is now clear to all that these courageous workers were often right and those who sought to discredit their work were frequently wrong.
It is not for us here to say how another country can best meet the demands of justice and healing, of truth and reconciliation, within the context of that society. It is clear, however, that the U.S. continues to bear a responsibility towards El Salvador and should be prepared to offer every assistance in the rebuilding of that devastated country.
El Salvador was a priority concern for this country during the years of war. Now that peace has come, the deep involvement of our nation in the Salvadoran war must be converted into a significant commitment to further the progress of peace and justice, of reconstruction and reconciliation.