"Higher Standards for Higher Education:
The Christian University and Solidarity"

By Dean Brackley, S.J.
Universidad Centroamericana "José Simeón Cañas"
Fr. Brackley, S.J. gave this talk at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska on November 4, 1999.

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The remains of six Jesuit priests killed here last week were placed today in a chapel crypt underneath a portrait of slain archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero amid mounting evidence of a campaign of intimidation against liberal members of the clergy.

In a nearly three-hour funeral mass on the campus of the Jose Simeon Canas University of Central America, where the priests were killed at their dormitory by what witnesses described as at least 20 men in military uniforms, church leaders eulogized the dead colleagues as champions of peace, social justice and the poor. The chapel is named for Romero, assassinated in 1980.

The Rev. Jose Maria Tojeira, head of the Jesuit order in Central America, sounded a defiant note when he declared: "They haven't murdered the Society of Jesus, nor have they murdered the {Jesuit-run} University of Central America." The remark was greeted by sustained applause from the 1,500 people attending. Among those present were President Alfredo Cristiani, leftist politician Ruben Zamora and U.S. Ambassador William Walker.

At the same time, a number of priests involved in relief work with the poor, including American Jim Barnett, a Dominican priest, reported having received death threats in recent days, and the Salvadoran Treasury Police continued to raid churches, confiscating books and papers.

The reports followed the publication Saturday of a letter from Salvadoran Attorney General Mauricio Eduardo Colorado to Pope John Paul II warning bishops who promote "the church of the poor" to leave the country for their personal safety.

Colorado said in a news conference today that the bishops have "somewhat questionable {political} tendencies" and added, "I personally think no one is being persecuted by anyone" in El Salvador.

Although Colorado, who is considered a hard-liner in the right-wing Salvadoran government, said he was writing as a private citizen rather than in his official capacity, many here have interpreted the message as a threat to liberal clergy members.

Colorado, who as attorney general is responsible for overseeing the investigation of the Jesuit murders, also said he blamed the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) in advance for "any nefarious act" that might take place against the bishops, and said the guerrillas had a plan to inflict "pain and suffering" on the nation by killing top church officials.

Fighting in the capital waned despite occasional gun battles in the northern and eastern sections of town, and a semblance of normalcy returned to the streets as the guerrillas pulled out.

Soldiers patrolled the streets of neighborhoods that the rebels held until late last week. Rooftops in entire sections of town were crowned with white flags.

In his weekly homily today, Archbishop Arturo Rivera Damas warned that a "terrifying wave of vengeance" could be the next stage in the decade-long civil war.

"Groundless accusations, death threats like that received by Lutheran Bishop Medardo Gomez, and the resulting repression and witch hunts could be unleashed as things return to normal" after the guerrilla offensive, the archbishop said. "The most difficult thing, without doubt, will be the reconstruction of the social fabric, so cruelly ripped apart by this interminable nightmare."

Rivera Damas said he believed that Cristiani and the armed forces would press an "exhaustive" investigation of the Jesuits' murders, "not only because there should be justice, but also because there is an extremely strong presumption that the assassins . . . are elements of the armed forces or those intimately tied to them."

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