This is the third time that the archbishop of Bogota was chosen as president of the episcopate. Bishop Héctor Gutiérrez, spokesman of the conference, said that the country's 75 bishops asked the archbishop "to form a team with Álvaro Uribe, Colombia's next president, which will foster a just peace process."
During an interview with Noticelam, the new news agency of the Latin American bishops' council (CELAM), Cardinal Rubiano explained that the "country cannot be plunged into pessimism and despair. We must go forward with the help of the Lord."
He also called on the country's bishops and priests to work "so that communion, which has a special meaning for us derived from our own spirituality, may be a reality in the country."
The cardinal proposed that Colombian Catholics, inspired by their faith, lead "a movement of national reconciliation."
Faced with the murder of an archbishop and five priests over the past six months, Cardinal Rubiano appealed to the clergy to remain faithful to their vocation. "As the Pope says: when one is on the cross, one must not come down from it. One must be firm and stay there, as the Lord does not abandon us," he said.
Eight years ago, Archbishop Rubiano was noted for his severe criticism of then President Ernesto Samper, accused by the public prosecutor of receiving millions from drug traffickers to finance the electoral campaign that brought him to power.
Cardinal Rubiano succeeds Archbishop Alberto Giraldo of Medellin in the post, who in the last few years has promoted the dialogue between the government and the guerrillas in an effort to find a negotiated solution to the conflict.