Around 250 people attended the Lauriston Jesuit Centre in Edinburgh on Wednesday, to hear the eminent Jesuit theologian, Fr Jon Sobrino SJ speak on his theme of 'Signs of Hope For the 21st Century - Living Simply, the Poor, and Archbishop Romero'. Fr Sobrino spoke in particular about the understanding of the poor themselves as a sign of hope, particularly in the work and writing of Fr Ignacio Ellacuria, his great friend and one of the Jesuit martyrs of San Salvador, killed in November 1989. His friendship with Romero was also a great feature of his talk and he portrayed him as a man of deep faith and deep respect for the people he served. He described how, during his homilies, Romero used to name all those who had been killed or had disappeared, saying something of their lives and something of their story. In this way he humanised and personalised the poor. He also named, when he knew, those who were the killers, not in the name of vengeance or revenge but in the name of the truth, which, as Jesus said in the Gospel of John, sets us free, and which honoured and made real, made human, those named whose lives had been taken. He drew on his latest book, 'The Eye of the Needle' - No Salvation Outside the Poor' to contrast what humanises and gives life with what dehumanises and destroys life. Globalisation, in particular, is terribly dehumanising because though it implies a good, it is in fact destructive and divisive. The poverty gap - or wealth gap - dehumanises even before we make an enquiry about any causal relationship between the rich and the poor. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus sums up the global reality very well, says Sobrino. In contrast, the poor themselves humanise us, and the Latin American bishops of the Medellin conference famously urged us to make an 'option for the poor'. For Jon Sobrino the poor, in fact, lead us to the divine, and he proposes an 'option to let salvation come from the poor'. Those who come from an experience of wealth to an experience of the lives of the poor in the developing world in particular, but elsewhere too, often tell of their conversion, how they experience something new and positive and life giving. They experience salvation, in other words. Hence the subtitle of Fr Sobrino's book. Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of Edinburgh, gave the vote of thanks commenting on his own visits to El Salvador over his many years as archbishop. The Archdiocese has constantly had priests assigned in El Salvador and it has been a two way enrichment for so many, he said. He thanked Jon Sobrino for his reminder that we live in a world that is sick, and that it requires healing and transforming, and expressed his hope to join the Jesuits in El Salvador to mark the 20th anniversary of the martyrdoms of Ellacuria and the others killed, in November 2009. Fr Sobrino was accompanied by Julian Filochowski of the Archbishop Romero Trust, and Brendan Walsh of Darton Longman and Todd, publisher of his book. The audience present at the talk was widely ecumenical and represented many areas and experiences; some knew Fr Sobrino from El Salvador, some were from SCIAF, including the Director Paul Chitnis and Head of Communication and Education Mary Cullen; others were from the justice and peace networks around Scotland. All were challenged yet encouraged by his vision of hope, his commitment to the poor, and his keeping alive the memory of Romero.
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