Colombian President Asks Cardinal to Mediate

Prelate to Talk With Guerillas to Seek Release of Hostages

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BOGOTA, Colombia, NOV. 27, 2009 ( The Colombian president on Thursday turned to the Church for assistance in ongoing efforts to bring the release of hostages held by guerilla rebels.

President Álvaro Uribe Vélez called on the aid of Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, who has had previous contact with the leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

On Caracol Radio, the cardinal addressed the FARC leader, known as Alfonso Cano, directly. “Alfonso if you hear this, one day when we were on the mountain I said to you: I have seen that you are an intelligent man, you studied, you went to university, I believe your intelligence will lead you to act intelligently.

“I trust — and at this time I tell you that you also have been baptized — that the spirit of Jesus Christ might put in your heart lights to understand that (guerrilla warfare) is not a way to obtain benefits.”

For some months, the Catholic Church has been the main interlocutor with FARC to secure the release of those kidnapped by the Colombian guerrillas.

Cardinal Castrillón accepted Uribe’s commission to talk to FARC and indicated that he continues with tasks in search of the release of the hostages.

“The only thing I can say is that I have always seen the president open to the possibilities of dialogue,” the cardinal told representatives of the press. “I regard him as prudent, but open, in the way of looking at things.”

The Colombian cardinal confirmed that other clerics of the Church already have contacts with members of FARC.

Though the number of FARC members has gone down under the presidency of Uribe, it is still estimated that it has between 11,000 and 18,000 fighters. They are holding some two dozen Colombian officials and an untold number of civilians for ransom purposes.

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