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Kidnapped Colombian bishop released unharmed by rebel captors

A bishop who was kidnapped by armed rebels in Colombia was freed unharmed by his captors the same day Pope John Paul II appealed for his release.

Bishop Misael Vacca Ramirez of Yopal was set free on Tuesday after he was taken at the weekend by members of the leftist rebel group, the National Liberation Army, known by its Spanish initials of ELN.

"I was treated well and there was never any lack of respect," said the bishop, according to a July 28 report by the Rome-based MISNA news service.

According to Fides, the Vatican's missionary news service, Bishop Vacca walked for three hours after he was released to reach Bishop Javier Pizarro of the Diocese of Trinidad.

Bishop Vacca was then flown by helicopter to his residence in Yopal and, after a medical examination, was found to be tired but in good health.

The bishop thanked all those who worked for his release, including Colombia's church leaders and Pope John Paul.

The Vatican had called the bishop's capture "an unjustifiable criminal act."

The Catholic Church has long acted as a channel for dialogue between left- and right-wing groups and the government. It has helped negotiate previous peace deals and guarantee the release of civilian hostages.

Bishop Vacca had been involved in peace efforts among rebels, paramilitary groups and the government that are vying for control of the petroleum-rich regions of Casanare and Boyaca.

But peace brokering has come at a high price for some church leaders. Between 1984 and 2002, some 50 bishops, priests, missionaries and seminarians were killed. Another 17 Catholic leaders were abducted and 57 churches and parish centers were damaged or destroyed.

Kidnapped Colombian bishop released unharmed by rebel captors (Catholic News Service 28/7/04)

Rebels free kidnapped bishop (Daily Telegraph 28/7/04)
Rebels Free Colombian Bishop Without Message (Reuters 27/7/04)
Bishop of Yopal freed: new details (Missionary Service News Agency 28/7/04)
Bishop of Yopal freed (Missionary Service News Agency 28/7/04)
Pope Assails Bishop's Kidnapping as "Criminal" (Zenit 27/7/04)
Rebels release Colombian bishop (Catholic World News 28/7/04)
Pope urges release of Colombian bishop kidnapped by rebels (CathNews 27/7/04)
Pope demands release of kidnapped bishop (Reuters 27/7/04)
Colombian Rebels Kidnap Bishop 'To Send Message' (Reuters 26/7/04)
Colombia Troops Hunt for Kidnapped Bishop (The Guardian/Associated Press 27/7/04)
Abduction of Bishop of Yopal: for the church, negotiations with ELN in jeopardy (Missionary Service News Agency 27/7/04)
Pope asks rebel army to release kidnapped bishop (Vatican Information Service 27/7/04)
Colombian rebels kidnap bishop (CathNews 27/7/04)

29 Jul 2004