Kidnapped Bishop Helped to Lower Violence in Diocese

Colombian Prelate Seen as a Peacemaker

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BOGOTA, Colombia, NOV. 13, 2002 ( Bishop Jorge Enrique Jiménez of Zipaquira, the kidnapped president of the Latin American bishops’ council, has a reputation as a man of peace.

In the past, the bishop of Zipaquira had mediated with armed groups. The mayor of the locality, Everth Bustamante recalled that the bishop showed his sensitivity for a peaceful solution to the conflict back in 1993, when he made contacts with paramilitary men and guerrillas in the area.

At that time, the Rodríguez Gacha family was very influential in the region, and was constantly the victim of crimes caused by the territorial disputes between the guerrillas and self-defense units, Colombia’s newspaper El Tiempo said today.

According to residents of the area, the bishop’s efforts in discussions with armed groups succeeded in diminishing the armed violence of those years.

His pastoral activity was brutally interrupted on Monday when he and Father Desiderio Orjuela, a parish priest of Pacho, were kidnapped. The army attributes the abduction to the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

In his homilies, the bishop of Zipaquira called for agreement and dialogue. The residents of Zipaquira also described him as a man of simplicity ready to listen to and counsel anyone in need.

This virtue enabled him to be in touch with the people of the area, with whom he shared in first Communions as well as large religious celebrations, El Tiempo said.

“He is happy speaking with any person and visiting villages, to the point that he never delegates the celebration of Masses or baptisms,” said the parish priest of Zipaquira, Father Emilio Ballesteros.

The priest said that Bishop Jiménez had not received threats to his life, so he never traveled with bodyguards.

“What has happened shows that with every passing day life and liberty are worth less in Colombia given the forces of evil,” Father Ballesteros told Radio Caracol.

Bishop Jiménez, 60, a native of Bucaramanga, would celebrate his 10th anniversary as bishop of Zipaquira in December.

CELAM, the bishops’ council, offers opportunities for contact, formation and research to the 22 episcopal conferences that stretch from Mexico to Cape Horn, including the Caribbean and Antilles.

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