Christianity came to El Salvador with the Spaniards who conquered the Pipil Indians in the 1520s. The country was part of the Spanish Captaincy General of Guatemala until 1821, a constituent of the Confederation of Central America (1823–39), and became an independent state in 1839. The diocese of San Salvador was recognised by the Papacy as independent of Guatemala in 1842. Roman Catholicism in El Salvador has been characterized by a strong institutional Church and by a high level of popular devotion among the rural poor. Until the late 1960s, the Church was politically conservative and allied with the powerful elite. In the mid-1970s, however, sections of the Salvadorean Church became involved with Liberation Theology. The ‘preferential option for the poor’ placed the Church in opposition to the military government during the Salvadorean civil war (1979–92); many of its lay catechists and clergy were assassinated in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including Abp. O. A. Romero. Since the end of the civil war in 1992, the popularity of Liberation Theology has declined as new forms of Christianity have proliferated, particularly charismatic Catholicism and Pentecostalism. See also Latin America.