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Colombia: Oldest Cardinal Offers Insights at 100

‘Discernment and Wisdom to Overcome Polarization’

“As a Church in Colombia, we have not always done the right thing. We should have begun to preach a Gospel of freedom so that Colombia would not begin its independent life as a quarrelsome country in politics. In that moment politics was not evangelized.”

Over time the political scenario turned out to be “a disaster” and “the Church was not able to direct the parties. We tried, but we did not succeed in making sure that the power was intended to serve rather than to fight,” said Cardinal José de Jesús Pimiento, the oldest Cardinal (100 years old in February).

The daily El Tiempo of Bogotá reported that the Cardinal refers to the role that the Church, in the forefront of the current peace process, had in the Colombian armed conflict, has not yet completely concluded. The guerrilla group National Liberation Army (ELN) is still active and the Pope has condemned the terrorist action. The elderly prelate said he is convinced that the Church must support dialogue with ELN only “when it carries out what the President of the Republic, Iván Duque, asks: to abandon terrorism and understand that dialogue is needed.”

According to the Cardinal, just as in society also in the Colombian Church, there is polarization which, however, must be seen “as a human problem and not attributed to the institution, to the family of God.”

Born on February 18, 1919, in a family of humble origins, the current bishop emeritus of Manizales participated in the entire II Vatican Ecumenical Council and met seven popes. Of the Council, he affirms that its doctrine “is an applied Gospel” and that “if it were put into practice, there would be fewer problems in the Church and in the world.” It reveals that “there was a particular empathy” and closeness with Paul VI, especially when Bishop Pimiento worked on the reform of the Concordat. He says that when he was appointed a young auxiliary bishop of Pasto. He was then titular of Montería, Garzón and, finally, Manizales. He was created Cardinal by Pope Francis in 2015, at the age of 95.

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