Episcopate Forgives Rebels for Murder of Priests

Colombia’s ELN Calls the Killings a Mistake

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BOGOTA, Colombia, AUG. 23, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The president of the Colombian bishops’ conference says he will continue his contacts with National Liberation Army guerrillas, even though they admitted to last week’s killing of two priests.

«As regards the Church, we forgive the ELN for what happened,» said Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro of Tunja, in statements published by news agencies. «We will of course continue to dialogue with them and with all illegal armed groups to seek peace.»

He added: «Relations with the ELN have been geared to facilitate progress toward a negotiated solution and we will continue to maintain these channels, because the guerrilla organization said that the crime was an error.»

The ELN issued a communiqué late Friday in which it admitted having «accidentally» killed the two priests and two civilians on Aug. 15 in the department of North Santander. On Saturday, in a new document, the insurgent group reiterated its apologies to the Catholic Church and expressed its interest in maintaining contacts with representatives of the Church.

«With profound grief, the ELN announces to national and international public opinion the accidental death of priests Ramon Mora and Vicente Rozo, and of building workers José Carrascal and Edgar Vergel,» stated the first communiqué.

«These deaths were caused by an error of intelligence and calculation of our guerrilla units, made easier by the very characteristics of the conflict in the area,» added the document.

According to the communiqué, «the deed will not go unpunished and disciplinary measures will be taken in the framework of our code of war and humanistic ethic.»

Last Thursday, Archbishop Castro announced the death of another priest, Father Jesús Adrián Sánchez, of the Diocese of Espinal, who worked to dissuade youths from joining the guerrilla movements.

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