BOGOTA, Colombia, MARCH 18, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Colombian bishops’ conference is expressing sorrow for two Redemptorist priests who were murdered Monday night.
Father Gabriel Fernando Montoya Tamayo, 40, and Father Jesús Ariel Jiménez, 45, were killed by an unknown individual in the municipality of La Primavera, in the Colombian department of Vichada.
In a note signed Tuesday by Archbishop Rúben Salazar Gómez of Barranquilla, president of the bishops’ conference, the Colombian episcopate expressed “its sentiment of solidarity to Reverend Father Francisco Antonio Ceballos Escobar, pro apostolic vicar of Puerto Carreno, to the relatives of the victims, to the Redemptorist missionaries and to the communities the religious were serving.”
The statement continued, “On condemning these crimes that once again overwhelm the Catholic Church and the whole country, [the Church] trusts that the instigators and authors of this violent event that work against the desire for peace and reconciliation that the Church has been preaching, will soon be identified.”
“We exhort everyone to pray for the two murdered priests and to ask the Lord, Prince of Peace, to touch the hearts of those who spread death in Colombia,” concludes the communiqué.
The priests were murdered at an Indigenous boarding school. Father Montoya had been director of the school for just over seven years and was about to hand the reins over to Father Jiménez, who arrived in La Pascua as the new head.
The crime was reported to the authorities in Puerto Carreno, capital of Vichada, by Father Francisco Ceballos, the city’s provincial of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. The city lies more than 500 kilometers [311 miles] from Bogota and on the border with Venezuela.
The Redemptorists have been running the boarding school of La Pascua for 10 years, since receiving it from its founders, the Montfort Missionaries. There are currently 120 Indigenous from several villages of Colombia’s eastern jungle region studying in the school.