Colombian Released After 11-Year Captivity
Daughter Asked Benedict XVI for Prayer Last November
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BOGOTA, Colombia, JUNE 23, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Luis Herlindo Mendieta Ovalle called it a "miracle" when he was rescued after almost 12 years of captivity, and months after his daughter visited Benedict XVI to request prayers.
The lieutenant colonel of the national Colombian police was kidnapped Nov. 1, 1998, by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a guerilla organization.
The Colombian army rescued him June 13 along with Police Captain Enrique Murillo Sanchez and Army Staff Sargeant Arbey Delgado Argote. The next day, Army Lieutenant William Donato Gomez was also rescued.
In an interview with Radio Caracol shortly after his release, Mendieta gave thanks for "the faith of my wife, of Jenny (his daughter) and for all the prayers of Colombia and of the world."
For her part, his wife, Maria Teresa Mendieta, said that "God heard my prayers."
"I entrusted myself to God all that time and God protected me," said the police officer.
Mendieta, 53, described the experience of abduction as "a terrible loneliness." After his release he said he is "astonished and enjoying every second."
Jenny Mendieta, the lieutenant colonel's daughter, traveled to Rome last autumn and had a brief meeting with Benedict XVI, after the Wednesday general audience on Nov. 18.
This 22-year-old young woman commented that in her meeting with the Pontiff, she took his hands and asked him to pray for the miracle of her father's release, to which the Pope responded: "The miracle will happen. Have faith. It will be so."
Jenny had participated in a "Freedom Caravan" of motorcyclists that traveled through several European countries to raise awareness of the kidnapped Colombians, arriving in Rome to take part in the Papal audience.
After the general audience, the Pope included them in his particular greetings: "I cordially greet the Spanish-speaking faithful, in particular, the caravan 'for peace and the release of the kidnapped' from Colombia."
The caravan was led by Colombian journalist Herbin Hoyos, who had fled the country for security reasons.
On that occasion, Hoyos also spoke for a few minutes with the Pope and recalled: "He greatly emphasized prayer. He took my hand and looked into my eyes, as though telling me to have confidence."
Ingrid Betancourt, the former candidate to the presidency of Colombia who was kidnapped for almost seven years and was a companion in captivity of Mendieta, also took part in the conversation on Radio Caracol. She took the opportunity to thank "the Sacred Heart," to whom she is "very devoted" for this latest release.
Betancourt said that in this month of the Sacred Heart "I was expecting good news."
"I know that all our companions who are in the jungle are also awaiting their moment and longing for freedom to come to them," said Betancourt, who shortly after her July 2008 release met with Benedict XVI in his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.
She continued, "They must be with those conflicting sentiments of feeling the happiness for the freedom of our four released companions, but must also feel the anguish of not knowing when their turn will come."
Betancourt sent a message to them: "Have faith that this nightmare is going to end very soon."
[With the contribution of Carmen Elena Villa]