2 Priests Kidnapped by Guerrillas in Colombia

Collaborator of Murdered Archbishop Leaving Country after Death Threats

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BOGOTA, Colombia, APRIL 9, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Two Colombian priests have been kidnapped by guerrillas, while a third, a close collaborator of murdered Archbishop Isaías Duarte Cancino, is being forced to leave the country because of death threats.

Father Saulo Carreño, parish priest of Saravena, and Father Teodore González of Arauca were kidnapped Saturday during a humanitarian mission to the department of Arauca. The kidnappings occurred the same day that a priest, Juan Ramón Núñez, was murdered by gunmen while celebrating Mass in the southern village of La Argentina.

The newspaper El Tiempo said the kidnappers are members of the National Liberation Army (NLA).

Bishop Rafael Arcadio Bernal of Arauca protested the kidnappings and said this action «damages the priests´ rights and the religious feeling of the Christian community.» The bishop added that by deceiving the priests with the claim of inviting them to meet other hostages, «the credibility of the authors [of the kidnapping] is seriously weakened.»

Members of the NLA claimed responsibility for the kidnappings in a statement sent to radio station Voz del Cinaruco of Arauca. They demanded the presence of a delegation of the department´s authorities, the Red Cross, the Catholic Church and the media, before handing over their nine hostages.

The principal condition mentioned in the statement by the guerrillas for the release of the hostages is «the right to spread our message» in the media.

Father Gersaín Paz, director of communications of the Archdiocese of Cali, and close collaborator of slain Archbishop Duarte, said today that he will leave the country because of the death threats he has received for reporting the possible figures behind the March 16 murder. «My superiors are very worried about my safety, so I must leave temporarily,» Father Paz said.

The archbishop was shot and killed outside a Cali church. He previously reported the presence of «accursed drug money» in the financing of campaigns for congressional candidates in the March 10 elections.

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