DAILY CATHOLIC MONDAY August 23, 1999 vol. 10, no. 158
NEWS & VIEWS
MOUNTING CONCERN OVER FATE OF KIDNAPPED COLOMBIAN BISHOP
Church Demands Hostages Captured During Mass Be Freed
BOGOTA, AUG 22 (ZENIT).- The Church in Colombia expressed publicly its mounting concern over the silence of the kidnappers of Bishop Jose Quintero of Tibú (on the northeastern border with Venezuela), abducted on August 15 by a group of armed men.
The National Liberation Army (ELN) guerillas have denied participation in the Bishop's kidnapping, which strengthens the theory that the kidnappers were members of paramilitary rightist organizations.
Given the uncertainty, Bishop Juan Sarasti of Ibagué, capital of the central eastern state of Tolima, appealed to the kidnappers to declare themselves and free the Bishop unconditionally.
According to the police, Bishop Quintero was captured by the Jose Libardo Toro front, a small leftist guerrilla of the maoist Popular Liberation Army (EPL), but this version has not been confirmed by the EPL.
The Bishop was kidnapped when he was returning by car with a priest from El Terra, a locality near Tibú, where he went to celebrate the feast of the Assumption.
Kidnapping in Cali Church
Bishop Isaias Duarte of Cali said that, in order to repair the "error" acknowledged by the ELN, following the kidnapping of 160 faithful from a Church in this city, the guerrilla must free the 45 remaining hostages.
In an official statement, the ELN said that the kidnapping carried out on May 30 was a mistake. "We want to say to all believers, and especially Catholics, that we made an operational error by acting before the religious service in the Church was finished." The statement was signed by the two fronts responsible for the massive kidnapping, and was sent to the Cali press.
"It was not our intention to offend people's religiosity and spirituality. The specific purpose of the action was to retain a group of people belonging to the Cali oligarchy," the insurgents said in their statement.
However, the kidnappers justified their action by arguing that "the people who are detained are not marginal to the social and armed conflict the country is experiencing; on the contrary, they are principal actors in it."
Bishop Duarte reiterated that "to repair that error, the 45 who remain in (the rebels') custody must be freed."
"Reading between the lines, one can detect acknowledgement of the error committed and I think this is positive. However, recognition of the error is not enough, one must repair the damage caused, and in this case it is a sacrilegious kidnapping they must repair by freeing the people."
Although the ELN has freed the majority of the hostages, there are 45 still
being held in a nearby mountainous area. Last month, after failing to meet
the deadline for returning the hostages, Bishop Duarte officially announced
the excommunication of the guerrillas for their action.
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NEWS & VIEWS