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El Salvador to honour murdered priests

President Mauricio Funes

President Mauricio Funes

The president of El Salvador has announced that the country will award its highest honour to six Jesuit priests murdered by a government death squad in 1989.

President Mauricio Funes says the National Order of Jose Matias Delgado awards are a 'public act of atonement' for mistakes by past governments. The awards will be given on 16 November,  the twentieth anniversary of the killings.

Spanish-born, Father Ignacio Ellacuria,  was rector of the University of Central America. Together with his staff, he would teach all week, then on weekends, go to the countryside to minister to El Salvador’s poorest of the poor.

At around 2am on 16 November 1989, the army came and rounded up Fr Ellacuria, with university teachers Fr Arnando Lopez, Fr Juan Ramon Moreno, Fr Ignacio Martin-Bario, and Fr Segundo Montes, pushed them into a courtyard and shot each, execution-style, in the back of the head.

Fr Joaquin Lopez y Lopez was then shot in the doorway of his room. Their housekeeper Julia Elba Ramos with her 15 year-old daughter Cecilia were shot in their beds.

The killings sparked international outrage  at the time, and tarnished the image of America's  anti-communism efforts after it was found that some of the soldiers involved received training at Fort Benning, Georgia.

For a personal account by Jesuit Father Tim McMahon see: catholickey.org/index.php3?gif=news.gif&mode=view&issue=20091030&article_id=5932