President of Latin American Bishops' Council Kidnapped in Colombia

Seized by Gunmen Presumed to Be Linked to Rebel Group

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BOGOTA, Colombia, NOV. 12, 2002 ( Colombian authorities confirmed that Bishop Jorge Jiménez Carvajal, president of the Latin American bishops’ council, was kidnapped by the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The bishop of Zipaquira was abducted Monday in San Antonio de Aguilera, near Pancho, in the center of the country, together with Father Desiderio Orjuela, the town’s parish priest. Both were intercepted by two men armed with rifles, when they were going to a confirmation.

According to the bishop’s driver, the kidnappers, dressed in civilian clothes, stopped them in El Roblon, just before the town of San Antonio de Aguilera, and forced the bishop and priest to go into the forest, the Colombian press reported.

The abduction occurred around 10 a.m., but the news was not published until 3 p.m. The gunmen had warned the driver to keep quiet, saying the bishop and the priest would be released at midday, something that did not happen.

The army announced a reward of 100 million pesos for information leading to the rescue of the captives. It attributed the deed to FARC’s Policarpa Salavarrieta Front. FARC’s Front 22 also operates in the same area.

Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Sáenz, president of the Colombian episcopal conference, has called for the immediate release of the kidnapped, and warned that by their action the kidnappers have incurred in a «grave canonical punishment that breaks communion with the Catholic Church.»

A native of Bucaramanga, Colombia, Jorge Jiménez Carvajal was born in 1942. A member of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, the Eudist Fathers, he was ordained a priest in 1967. He has been bishop of Zipaquira since 1992.

Bishop Jiménez Carvajal was secretary-general of the Colombian episcopal conference from 1993 to 1995, and secretary-general of CELAM from 1995 to 1999. He was elected president of CELAM for 1999-2003 during its ordinary assembly, held in Ecuador.

In a note issued by Noticelam, CELAM’s news agency, the bishops, priests and faithful of Latin America have been asked to pray for the speedy release of Bishop Jiménez Carvajal and of Father Orjuela.

In recent years, three bishops, 12 priests, three nuns and one missionary have been kidnapped in Colombia.

One archbishop, one bishop, 43 priests, two religious and two missionaries have been killed. Eight bishops, three nuns and 12 priests have been threatened.

Bishop Jiménez Carvajal’s kidnapping occurs eight months after the murder of Archbishop Isaías Duarte Cancino of Cali.

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