BOGOTA (CWNews.com) - Cyanide-laced wine, presented to several Catholic churches as an Easter gift last week, claimed the lives of a priest and a nun on Friday in the remote town of Villavicencio, Colombia.

      Police spokesmen said up to 27 bottles of poisoned wine, tainted with cyanide, ammonia, and methanol or wood alcohol, were distributed to churches throughout southeastern Colombia from Wednesday to Friday. Father Jesus David Saenz and a nun, whose name has not been disclosed, died in the San Luis de Monfort Church, hours after they received the present. Meanwhile, in a church at the town of Sibate, a sacristan and another woman were poisoned and remain in a hospital near the capital city, Bogota.

      The Colombian bishops' conference expressed outrage and concern over the murders. "Tough days are getting closer to the Catholic Church. I refused to believe that things in our country were so terrible, but now we cannot deny any kind of accusation, including those that point to a satanic sect," the conference president said in a statement. The tainted wine was delivered to Father Saenz's church in an Easter gift basket also containing chocolates and cookies, and it was reported on Sunday that at least 10 other baskets containing poisoned wine were delivered to priests in the provinces of Meta and Cundinamarca.

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April 15, 1998 volume 9, no. 73         DAILY CATHOLIC