Colombian Prelates Now Urge Thanksgiving Prayers

Rescued Betancourt Set to Visit Lourdes, Benedict XVI

BOGOTA, Colombia, JULY 7, 2008 ( The Colombian bishops say their repeated exhortations to pray for kidnap victims is now an invitation to give thanks to God for having heard the prayers.

In a statement Friday, the prelates, who were meeting in plenary assembly, said: “On several opportunities we have appealed to our communities to be united in prayer for victims of various forms of abduction.

“Today our exhortation is that we express our thanksgiving to Jesus Christ, the Lord of life, for the 15 brothers of ours who have regained their freedom this week, after a long period of suffering.”

Fifteen hostages were rescued from the FARC last week in an undercover operation that went off without bloodshed. Among them was French-Colombian Íngrid Betancourt, who was captured while running for the Colombian presidency in 2002.

The bishops congratulated “the president of the republic, the commanders of the armed forces and other state organizations, which carried out the rescue operation without spilling blood. As they themselves expressed, this is the result of the prayer of all our fellow countrymen.”

Colombian President Álvaro Uribe had described the rescue operation as having the “light of the Holy Spirit and the protection of Our Lord and the Virgin in every regard.”

The bishops said they also joined their prayer “to that of the Holy Father Benedict XVI and of our whole nation so that we continue to make progress on the paths of forgiveness, justice, truth and solidarity, toward the recovery of the freedom of all the victims of kidnapping and the achievement of peace for all Colombians.”

The prelates appealed “to armed groups to think with a sense of solidarity and genuine love for the homeland, and to accept the paths of peace that are now in their hands.”

They concluded by reiterating their “willingness to serve to create the conditions that signify progress in the recovery of integral peace for all our fellow countrymen.”

A Vatican statement last week said that Benedict XVI would fulfill Betancourt’s desire to meet with the Pope as soon as his schedule permitted. The Holy Father leaves for Australia this week for Sydney’s World Youth Day.

The French press reported that Betancourt will be visiting Lourdes in the coming days to give thanks for her rescue, which she said she considers a miracle.

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