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Outspoken Colombian archbishop murdered

An archbishop who was a critic of Colombian guerrilla groups was shot several times and killed by two gunmen after he left a church hall on Saturday.

Two gunmen shot and killed Archbishop Isaias Duarte Cancino, 63, on Saturday after he left a church in Cali. No one has claimed responsibility for killing Duarte, who was known for his outspoken criticism of Colombia's rebels.

The pope named Duarte archbishop in Cali -- 300 kilometers southwest of the capital Bogota -- in August 1995. During his Sunday appearance in St. Peter's Square, the pope described Duarte as generous and brave.

"He paid the highest price for his energetic defence of human life, his firm opposition to all types of violence and his dedication to social development according to the Gospel," the pope said. "While I lift up my prayers for the eternal rest of the late prelate and express my closeness to the Colombian church that weeps over his tragic demise, I urge Colombians once again to follow the way of dialogue, excluding all types of violence, blackmail and kidnapping and to firmly commit themselves to what are the true roads of peace."

The archbishop was well-known for being a harsh critic of the region's guerrilla groups. Before the country's last legislative elections, he warned of links between the guerrillas and drug dealers. In 1999, he excommunicated members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) after they abducted dozens of worshippers from a Catholic church in Cali.



18 Mar 2002