The Most Rev. Martín de Jesús Barahona Pascacio, Doctor of Divinity honoris causa 2012, died peacefully on 23 March 2019 at the age of 76 on the eve of San Oscar Romero de las Américas’s assassination, where he was a patient in the Hospital at Divina Providencia, San Salvador, steps from the place where Romero was martyred. Bishop Barahona is survived by his wife and two daughters.
To a person, Bishop Barahona is remembered for his smile, which he had up to the end of his life. This characteristic smile was the sign of affection and love he had for the Salvadoran people and everyone whom he met.
Bishop Barahona was ordained Catholic priest first, and then worked for more than three decades in the Episcopal Church. This January 6th, he observed 50 years of priesthood and 28 March 2019 would have been his 27th anniversary of consecration as Bishop Diocesan of the Episcopal Anglican Church of El Salvador (Iglesia Anglicana Episcopal de El Salvador, IAES, 1992-2015), the first Salvadoran to be consecrated its bishop. He served the diocese, prior to its becoming autonomous (along with four other dioceses) in 1997 when the General Convention voted to form IARCA. Bishop Barahona was also former Archbishop of the Anglican Church of the Region of Central America (Iglesia Anglicana de la Región de Central de América, 2002-2010).
Bishop Barahona received an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity honoris causa from General in May 2012. At the time of his award, Bishop Barahona was recognized for his unwavering witness to full inclusion at all levels in the church locally and internationally, for his ecumenical and interfaith ministries, for his love of people, his courage and his deep faith in God. He always maintained a message of reconciliation, respect and unity.
He also held an honorary doctorate from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, CA.
Bishop Barahona grew up in a small, rural, poor northern town that eventually was subsumed by the creation of a major reservoir. He lost his father and two brothers during the civil war. He drew on this background as he engaged with the people of the IAES, and he reminded others that the IAES is committed to working with the poor.
Bishop Barahona’s participation in the wide scope of church and national life made him an internationally recognized figure. He was President of the Ecumenical Forum nationwide in connection with the Latin American Council of Churches CLAI (better known as Fe CLAI) and was called in 2007 to represent El Salvador at the Third Conference of Religions for Peace held in Kyoto, Japan, where more than 3000 people and almost 100 different religions gathered. As further sign of his devotion to ecumenism, in his retirement, Bishop Barahona earned a Master’s of Theology from the One Logos Theological Seminary, an ecumenical free seminary.
An important ministry of the IAES that Bishop Barahona created and supported is a human rights office. The IAES is the only church in Central America to have such an office, which works with land reclamation, refugees and deportees. Bishop Barahona’s vision and example of compassion and advocacy laid the foundation for this project. Likewise, in 2003, in collaboration with the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York, he founded Misión de los Milagros, a health initiative that continues to this day.
Bishop Barahona was co-founder in 2000 of the non-profit organization, Fundación Cristosal. In its early years, Cristosal worked to foster relationships between the IAES and The Episcopal Church. Now it is an internationally-recognized NGO that works with the displaced, and seeks justice in rectifying El Salvador’s past and human rights.
Bishop Barahona, in his retirement, served the IAES as its Peace Ambassador, and continued his decades-long involvement with the Salvadoran Chapter of Religions for Peace as its chair. He participated in nation-wide efforts to broker peace between gangs and authorities, and tirelessly worked to instill a culture of peace throughout the country and to ensure a just and dignified life for all. He played an important role in the 1992 peace accords that ended the 12-year civil war.
The President of the Republic of El Salvador, with whom he worked as a founding member of the National Council of Security and Citizen Coexistence (Consejo Nacional de Seguridad y Convivencia Ciudadana), noted the bishop’s death.
Bishop Barahona long supported full inclusion of LGBTI people in all levels of the church and was a member of the Chicago Consultation. He was the only other primate to participate in the consecration of the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson in 2003.
At the time of his death, Bishop Barahona pastored a small group of LGBTI young professionals in a house-church setting they call, “Comunidad Magdala.” As a testimony to the bishop’s pastoral care, the congregation will continue to worship. Likewise, a non-profit foundation, “Fundación Obispo Martín Barahona: Cuidado Pastoral Integral,” is in formation, through which his remarkable ministry of inclusion and justice-making may continue.
He survived an assassination attempt in March 2010. He stated shortly after this attempt on his life, “I have learned several things from this—that I love my people more and more, I won’t stop being a bishop, and I love God.”
Private interment and a church-wide Celebration of Bishop Barahona’s Life were held in San Salvador shortly after his death.