Romero: Free Film/Discussion, St. Peter's Church, Wed. July 3

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church invites the congregation and public to a free showing and discussion of the 1989 film Romero on Wednesday, July 3 from 6 – 9 p.m. in the church fellowship hall at 11 White Street, Rockland.  The film depicts the life of Archbishop Óscar Romero, who organized peaceful protests against the violent military regime of El Salvador, eventually at the cost of his own life.

The film stars Raúl JuliáRichard Jordan as Romero's close friend and fellow martyred priest, Rutilio Grande, as well as actors Ana Alicia and Harold Gould. Participants are encouraged to bring their own box supper or snacks; coffee will be provided.

In the late 1970s, El Salvador was ruled by a corrupt, totalitarian government that maintained power by sending firing squads to gun down opposition groups, including labor organizations and human rights activists.  Assassinations, executions, and disappearances became commonplace throughout the country.

When the Vatican elevated conservative Oscar Arnulfo Romero (Raul Julia) to Archbishop of the El Salvador Catholic church, the military rulers believed he would pose no threat but would instead quiet the rioting masses through his speeches on nonviolence.  At first, Romero did just this. But as he increasingly witnessed the brutalization of the people and experienced the murder of a dedicated priest and friend, the archbishop began to condemn the regime in radio messages, even leading a peasant march into a church occupied by soldiers and defying the iron-fisted  El Salvadoran president and dictator.

As the violence continued, Romero increasingly spoke out, gaining international attention, but he was torn. Whether to help the rebels initiate a bloody civil war or to agree with the government to secure his own life or to try and find common ground through nonviolence “armed with only the power of his voice and the words of the Bible?”  The climax of the film occurs when Romero is shot to death while celebrating the mass.

Raul Julia portrays Romero as a reasonable, thoughtful man, slow to anger, and willing to see both sides, but also as a man ultimately led to speak out against injustice. As Roger Ebert wrote in his 1989 review of the film, “His conversion is seen almost entirely in theological, not political terms; he takes his stand not because he is a leftist but because he is a Christian.”

Romero was the first feature film from Paulist Pictures, a company founded by the Paulist Fathers, a Roman Catholic society of priests. The company was also known for the production of a long-standing television series called Insight. The film was screened in 1989 at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was directed by Australian filmmaker John Duigan and produced by Paulist Pictures founder Father Ellwood (Bud) Kieser.

Romero is part of the ongoing first Wednesday night film/discussion series sponsored by St. Peter’s.  St. Peter’s is the red shingled church in downtown Rockland, between the Rockland Public Library and the Rec Center. For more information, call 594-8191.

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