From ........... Associated Press

November 16, 1994

SAN SALVADOR (AP) -- Salvadorans gathered Wednesday for a Mass commemorating the fifth anniversary of the army slaying of six Jesuits priests, their housekeeper and her daughter during a rebel offensive.

The eight were gunned down before dawn Nov. 16, 1989, by the army's elite "Atlacatl" battalion, during a military counter-offensive. Their deaths drew new international attention to the conflict.

"In these deaths there is great darkness," said Jesuit Father Rodolfo Cardenal at the campus of the Jesuit-run Central American University, where the eight were murdered.

"But there is also a great light, because these people are martyrs," Cardenal said.

Priests Ignacio Ellacuria, Ignacio Martin Baro, Segundo Montes, Amando Lopez, Juan Ramon Moreno, Joaquin Lopez and housekeeper Elba Ramos and her daughter Celina died in a hail of bullets.

The case is one of many unhealed wounds in El Salvador, where a two-year-old peace agreement is still taking hold.

Nine soldiers were charged two months after the massacre, which caused threats from U.S. congressmen to cut off U.S. military aide.

But seven were absolved in a 1991 trial, and the two others found guilty were freed by the general amnesty that went into force after the U.N.-mediated peace.

The Jesuit order and many others condemned the trial and the freeing of the soldiers. Many still believe the killings were ordered by high-level military officials and members of the government.

During the war many in the military, in rightist political parties and in shadowy death squads accused church activists of collaborating with guerrillas.

Some 500 students, priests, politicians and diplomats gathered for the Mass, held on a warm evening in a university parking lot.

The war officially ended in January 1992, when the rebel Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, signed a peace agreement with the government. The Front became a legal political party.

But proof that political violence has not ended came just last week, when a former top rebel commander was killed and two others wounded in an attack in a restaurant.

The FMLN says more than 30 former guerrillas have been assassinated since the signing of the peace accord.