Love your enemies;
pray for those who persecute you.
Matthew 5: 44
Father Cosme Spessotto, OFM, an Italian Franciscan missionary, was killed while praying before Mass in the church of San Juan Nonualco, El Salvador, on June 14, 1980, by members of the Treasury Police. He had been pastor of that parish for 27 years. He is noted to have introduced the cultivation of grapes in his parish and written a manual on their cultivation.
He was one of the many church leaders, men and women, killed in El Salvador and Latin America, and the tens of thousands of women and men who were killed because they worked for justice, sided with the poor, or just happened to be poor or to work with them. As far as I can tell Father Cosme was not very political. But, like many priests then, he denounced the injustices the Salvadoran Armed Forces committed; he buried the partially decomposed bodies of those killed and left by the side of the road by death squads. And he visited the sick, helped poor campesinos construct their homes, and tried to serve his parish. well.
After his death a letter “to be opened in the case of a sudden death” was found in his belongings:
“I have a feeling that at one time or another fanatical persons can take away my life. I ask the Lord that at the opportune moment he give me the strength to defend the rights of Christ and his Church. To die a martyr would be a grace I don’t deserve. To wash away with the blood, poured out by Christ, all my sins, defects, and weaknesses of my past life would be a gracious and gratuitous gift of God.
“Beforehand I pardon the authors of my death and ask God for their conversion. I thank all my parishioners who by their prayers and their demonstrations of appreciation have encouraged me to give them the ultimate witness of my life – that they may be good soldiers of Christ.
“I hope to continue helping them from heaven.”
A touching testimony of a simple follower of St. Francis who followed Jesus, even to praying for his assassins.