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Fr. Rutilio Grande, SJ

January 19, 2022 — Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande of El Salvador will be beatified this Saturday, January 22 in San Salvador along with his two lay companions, Manuel Solórzano and Nelson Rutilio Lemus Chávez, and Franciscan Father Cosme Spessotto. All were victims of murder at the hands of death squads during years of terror in El Salvador and were martyrs for faith and justice.

Fr. Grande and his two companions died on March 12, 1977. They were shot down on their way to Mass by gunmen acting for the government.

In a video message, Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, Superior General of the Jesuits, said:

“Fr. Rutilio Grande … knew how to be a counselor, an understanding and kind companion, and at the same time firm and serious about the Christian life and the responsible exercise of the priestly ministry. The peasant population, of which he himself was a part and which he served with dedication in his pastoral service, found in him a close, self-sacrificing and loving … priest to share life with the community of the followers of Jesus who witnessed the Good News.”

A display about El Salvador’s martyrs at the Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas in San Salvador

The beatification ceremony will be performed by Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez. Father Pascual Cebollada, postulator of the cause, will represent Father General at the ceremony. He says about his experience:

“It was a consolation to read about the life of Rutilio, to see how this Jesuit was so committed to the powerless and the defenseless. I also appreciated his humanity, and I could identify with him in so many aspects of his life. His commitment to prayer and to being close to Jesus poor and humble—something all Jesuits are called to—has now made him an example that we can all learn from.”

Rutilio Grande, SJ (courtesy of Ana Grande)

Rutilio Grande was born on March 5, 1928, and he entered the Jesuits in 1945 and was ordained in 1959. He was the first priest killed in the civil war in El Salvador. His murder had an enormous impact on St. Oscar Romero, the then Archbishop of San Salvador who became increasingly outspoken about the war and who himself was eventually murdered.

Fr. Rutilio Grande (right) served as master of ceremonies for the installation of St. Oscar Romero (center), as archbishop of San Salvador in 1977. (Creative Commons)
Clockwise from top left: Fr. Rutilio Grande, SJ; Father Cosme Spessotto; Manuel Solórzano; and Nelson Rutilio Lemus Chávez

Resources:

Watch the video message from Father General on the beatification and a video on Fr. Grande from the series on “Jesuit Saints.”

A recent article in America magazine gives some lessons that can be learned from the life of Fr. Grande.

The beatification celebration will be streamed live on YouTube on January 22 at 3 p.m. Pacific time.

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