Pope Appeals for Release of Kidnapped Colombian Priest

Held by Guerrillas Since March

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II appealed for the release of Colombian Father César Darío Peña García, kidnapped in mid-March in the region of Antioquia.



The Pope's appeal was reported in a press statement today by Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls, who explained that the appeal is part of a papal letter sent to the bishop of the diocese to which the priest belongs.

In the letter, sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, to Bishop Jairo Jaramillo Monsalve of Santa Rosa de Osos, the Holy Father confirms his "prayers and affection" for the parish priest of Raudal, of the municipality of Valdivia.

"The Pope encourages the bishop and the priests of the diocese to continue, with courage and hope, in their efforts of evangelization, and invites them to respond with constancy to the spiritual and social needs of the faithful who have been entrusted to them," Navarro-Valls said.

"Moreover, the Supreme Pontiff desires a speedy solution of the painful case and wishes the diocese and the whole of Colombian society the joy and peace of the Risen Lord," Navarro-Valls' statement concluded.

Father Peña García was kidnapped, purportedly by guerrillas of the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC), in a mountainous region of Colombia, according to Archbishop Alberto Giraldo Jaramillo of Medellin.

In recent weeks, several Catholic priests have reported death threats by FARC guerrillas.

Archbishop Isaías Duarte Cancino of Cali, was killed by FARC rebels in March 2002. In November 2002, the same rebel group kidnapped Bishop Jorge Enrique Jiménez Carvajal of Zipaquira, the then president of the Latin American bishops' council. Shortly after, he was liberated by the army.