Twenty-five years after the murder of six Jesuits and two women at Jesuit university in El Salvador, the Society of Jesus is seeking something larger than legal justice. Many members of the order are promoting the legacies of those who perished.
By William Bole
It was one of the most glaring and brazen human-rights crimes of the late 20th century.
In the predawn hours of November 16, 1989, an elite battalion of El Salvador’s military forced its way into the Jesuit residence at the University of Central America, or UCA. The university, led by its president, Father Ignacio Ellacuría, SJ, had become a stronghold of opposition to human rights abuses committed by the U.S.-backed military.
On that night, soldiers dragged five priests out of their beds and into a courtyard, made them lay facedown on the grass, and fired bullets into their heads. They went back inside and killed another Jesuit. Then, searching the residence further, they found a housekeeper and her teenage daughter crouching in the corner of a bedroom, holding each other. The gunmen shot them too.
Twenty-five years later, many are still waiting for justice in the case of the murdered Jesuits and women. None of the top military commanders who issued the orders to kill was ever prosecuted for the crimes. There is now, however, renewed interest in bringing them to trial. Ramping up the pressure are global human rights groups and Spain, which claims jurisdiction in the case because five of the six Jesuit victims were Spaniards.
Amid these stirrings, the Society of Jesus is seeking something larger than legal justice. Many members of the order are promoting the legacies of those who perished in the Jesuit massacre — the Fathers Ellacuría, Ignacio Martín-Baró, Segundo Montes, Amando López, Joaquin López y López, and Juan Ramón Moreno, as well as Julia Elba Ramos and her daughter, Celina Maricet Ramos. The eight are often referred to simply as “the martyrs.”