‘25 years later, murder of priests in El Salvador still resonates with Worcester Jesuit, congressman’

Telegram & Gazette

Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., president of the College of the Holy Cross, returned to El Salvador on Nov. 15 to commemorate the murders of six Jesuits in El Salvador 25 years ago. The murders occurred at the University of Central America in the country"s capital of San Salvador. Armed men rushed into the Jesuit residence at the University and shot six Jesuit priests, the community’s cook and her daughter. This tragic event sparked outrage in the international community. The act of violence marked another turning point in the country's ongoing violent civil war, which had ravaged El Salvador from 1979 until 1992.

Fr. Boroughs studied with one of the victims, the Rev. Ignacio Martin-Baro, at the University of Chicago while he was working to get his master of divinity degree in 1977. When Fr. Boroughs opened the paper on Nov. 16, 1989 he realized his admired colleague’s fate. "It was a very traumatic experience, to know someone was killed for the things they believed in."

Many came to pay tribute and participate in the ceremonies honoring the Jesuits. There were approximately 150 priests in attendance as well as Rev. Jim Houston of the St. Rose Lima Parish in Northborough and U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester.

McGovern who has his own ties to the history of the priests execution, first visited the country in the early 1980s as a congressional aide to U.S. Rep. Joseph J. Moakley, D-Boston, who has since died. After the slayings in 1989, Mr. Moakley was tasked with compiling a report investigating the United States' foreign aid sent to the Salvadoran government. It was later discovered that the aid that was sent was used to authorize its military to execute the priests. McGovern worked on that investigation and it was later cited in the peace accord of 1992 that was brought forward by the United Nations to end the Civil War.

Fr. Boroughs and McGovern both noted that the violence in El Salvador is still a major issue. Many gangs are still running rampant in the country and the death toll continues to climb and is greater than at the time of the Country’s civil war. The citizens of El Salvador continue to need assistance.

“That’s the terror and trauma that others are dealing with,” Fr. Boroughs stated. “It’s a tragedy of great monument because there are people there who have survived the civil war and who have tried to get on a new footing, yet many of the social and political relations haven’t improved.”

Read the article in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette

This “Holy Cross in the News” item by Kelly Ethier.