Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religion & Culture / Religious Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Kay Koppedrayer

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Archbishop Oscar Romero symbolizes, for many Salvadorans more than a decade after his death, the spirit of a struggle to liberate the poor and powerless from the repression of the privileged few who wield social, economic and political power in El Salvador.

As archbishop, Romero shifted the church’s emphasis from one of church-state complicity to a church intent on defending its poor. Traditionally, the church had been aligned with the aims and methods of the ruling families of El Salvador. Romero found this alliance unacceptable in light of the socio-political reality that found the majority of Salvadorans being forced to live in abject poverty through the complicity of the three major Salvadoran institutions: church, state and military. Instead Romero, mirroring the ministries of rural progressive priests, placed the church firmly on the side of the poor. For the first time, the people of El Salvador had the support of one of its institutional leaders.

This thesis is an examination of a shift in state-church relations, how this shift redefined the church’s role in society and how it attained the support of the people and the ire of the oligarchy.

The thesis begins by exploring the history of the church in Latin America in order to demonstrate the dynamics of church-state relations in El Salvador. The second chapter delves into Romero’s ministry uncovering the activities that brought him in conflict with the ruling classes. The third chapter examines why Romero developed the typed of ministry he did and how he attempted to act in accordance with his understanding of God and what God willed for the people of El Salvador. Finally the conclusion returns to a discussion of the impact of the church’s realigning itself with the people.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season