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Latin American church leaders seek contact with bishop's captors

Bishops in Latin America are making urgent efforts to establish contact with the Colombia rebels who kidnapped Bishop Jorge Enrique Jimenez Carvajal.

The national radio network Caracol reported that Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz of Santiago, Chile, travelled to Bogota in hopes of "establishing conversation with representatives of the guerrillas" who captured Bishop Jimenez. He is being joined in that effort by Archbishop Beniamino Stella, the papal nuncio in Colombia.

The two prelates also met with the country's vice-president, Francisco Santos, to discuss their efforts.

Cardinal Errazuriz will also function as acting president of the Latin American Bishops' Conference, CELAM, as long as Bishop Jimenez is in captivity. The Colombian bishop is the president of CELAM; Cardinal Errazuriz is vice-president.

Bishop Jimenez was taken hostage on Monday by guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). He was taken capture, along with a priest of his Zipaquira diocese, as he traveled to a rural town to celebrate Mass.

A spokesman for Archbishop Stella, the papal nuncio, told the Caracol radio audience that "it is still premature" to discuss the success of the efforts to establish contact with Bishop Jimenez's captors.

Pope John Paul II said in a telegram that he felt "deep pain" and was praying that those responsible free the bishop.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops, meeting in Washington, expressed its concern for Jimenez and the Colombian church.

"He is very much with us in prayer," said Boston Cardinal Bernard F. Law, chairman of the American bishops' Committee on International Policy.

Catholic World News/Boston Globe

US Condemns Kidnapping of Bishop (AP)
Pope Decries Kidnapping of CELAM's President and Priest (Zenit)
Pope Pleads for Release of All Hostage (Catholic World News)
Kidnapping of Bishop Highlights Vulnerability of Civilians in Conflict (Amnesty International)

14 Nov 2002