The cardinal had been bishop of Pereira in the mid-1970s and later of Bucaramanga. Today he is prefect of the Vatican Congregation of the Clergy.
Here, he spoke about Archbishop Duarte Cancino of Cali, who he says was “always on the side of the people.”
Q: What did you feel when you learned of the murder of Archbishop Duarte?
Cardinal Castrillón: Naturally, rejection for such an abominable crime. In the spiral of violence Colombia is experiencing, it seems to me that with this action we have arrived at a very serious point, whose consequences cannot be foreseen.
As part of the Holy See, I wish to express once again solidarity with the Colombian Church, with the Archdiocese of Cali, and with all the people. It is a time that should inspire profound human and Christian reflection.
Q: It has been described as an absurd action. However, considering the many times that Archbishop Duarte exposed himself to danger, do you not think, unfortunately, that such a grave event was predictable?
Cardinal Castrillón: No, in no way do I think it was predictable because it is foreign to the culture of the Colombian people. Even in the midst of so much violence, there has always been great respect for the Church and its bishops.
It is true that years ago, a guerrilla movement killed the bishop of Arauca, but that was a completely different context. Instead, this time a man was killed who had made a great contribution to peace, a bishop who had worked in a very difficult diocese, Apartado, where there was a very serious confrontation between guerrilla and paramilitary forces, a man who made a constant contribution to peace, and defended the civilian population from guerrilla incursions with prophetic words rooted in faith. A bishop who was always present in a very clear way in the life of the country, in these situations of war and confrontation.
Q: What reactions has Archbishop Duarte´s death elicited?
Cardinal Castrillón: It has made a very profound impression on the people, which I think will inspire a time of reflection and, perhaps, a change of position — because it is a tragedy that has touched people´s conscience.
I have been able to see this in all the information I have received, when speaking with friends and the press. There is such distress in the country, such a determined rejection of what has happened, that in fact we can think that it will make the different leaders of the various violent movements, reflect.
And, looking at the situation from the point of view of faith, this would be positive. They say that the situation in Cali today is impressive, because the people´s religious attitude seems to prevail, because the Church has lived and lives profoundly the life of the people.
When phenomena like drug trafficking or violence as a system for political and social ends appear in social life, [the Church´s] voice has always been very clear. Archbishop Isaías Duarte´s case, which has spoken with direct, clear language, with a voice like a sword, has made of the Gospel what the Gospel should be.