Fr Rutilio Grande’s martyrdom marked the beginning of a campaign of persecution of the Church in El Salvador.
Rutilio was assassinated on March 12th 1977 together with his sacristan, Manuel Solorzano and young assistant Nelson Lemus. They were shot by a death squad as they drove from Aguilares to celebrate Mass in the village of El Paisnal. The killings occurred less than three weeks after Oscar Romero was named Archbishop of San Salvador. As a Jesuit priest Rutilio had served, ten years earlier, on the staff of the seminary in San Salvador where Oscar Romero came to live - and they became friends.
Rutilio took charge of the rural parish of Aguilares in 1972. It was at the epicentre of growing tension and social conflict where landless peasants worked as exploited day labourers on the vast sugar cane plantations of wealthy landowners. Rutilio with a team of young Jesuits promoted programmes of conscientisation in the manner of Paulo Freire and established a remarkable network of basic Christian communities following the directives from the Medellin Conference of Latin American Bishops.
Rutilio preached and spoke with passion and clarity about the injustices suffered by the rural population and he stood with them as they organised to seek land reform and social development. The landowners came to see Rutilio’s pastoral programmes as a great threat to their interests.
The killing of this Salvadoran priest was a huge shock, but especially to Rutilio’s friend Archbishop Romero. Romero determined to follow the same path taking the side of the poor and exploited that Rutilio had pioneered - and it put Romero on the road to his own Calvary three years later. The Cause for the beatification of Rutilio and his two companions has moved rapidly forward with the archdiocese working hand-in-hand with the Society of Jesus.
On 22 February 2020, Pope Francis declared that Rutilio Grande, along with his two companions Manuel Solorzano and Nelson Lemus, were martyred in hatred of the faith. On 22 January 2022, they were officially declared 'Blesseds' at a ceremony in San Salvador, where Cardinal Rosa Chávez was the main celebrant. You can read his homily from the beatification below.
The best English language biography of Rutilio is a book by Rhina Guidos, 'Rutilio Grande - A Table for All', published by Liturgical Press. There is also the excellent book on Archbishop Romero and Rutilio by Ana Maria Pineda 'Romero and Grande - Companions on the Journey' published in the US by Lectio Publishing. There is a useful analysis of Rutilio by Thomas Kelly, ‘When the Gospel Grows Feet’. It is complemented by Kelly’s more recent ‘Rutilio Grande SJ: Homilies and Writings’ which, as the title suggests, is a translation of various of Rutilio’s texts and sermons. Both are available on Amazon.
A novel entitled ‘November’ by Jorge Galan, which could be described as ‘fact-ion’, was recently published in English translation. It recreates the events of 1989 with intimate detail and imaginative sympathy. In regard to the killings it is accurate and engaging. It is available for purchase on-line.
We have below one or two articles on Rutilio in English and we hope to add translations of other materials which are presented here in Spanish. They are the texts of two pamphlets that were produced in San Salvador at the Monseñor Romero Centre at the UCA (the Jesuit University) - which has kindly given permission for the Trust to put them here in downloadable pdf formats.
Click here to read a talk given by the late Dean Brackley SJ on Rutilio Grande SJ and Archbishop Romero: Martyrs for our Time.
Click here for a reflection given by Julian Filochowski at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, in April 2021. You can also watch the reflection below.
In Spanish at bottom of this page, two attachments. One looking at Rutilio Grande's homilies; the other featuring testimonies to him.
This brief video in Spanish of Rutilio's life is also produced by the UCA.