Pope Laments Murder of 2 Priests in Colombia

Sends Messages of Sympathy

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II sent two messages to express his sorrow over the killing of two Colombian priests.



Monsignor Gabriel Arias Posada, 66, vicar of the Diocese of Armenia, and Father José Luis Cárdenas Hernández, 30, parish priest in the southern municipality of Chalan, were slain within 12 hours of each other.

Father Cárdenas was killed Thursday by gunmen at the door of his house. Police sources attributed the murder to the Colombian Armed Revolutionary Forces (FARC).

A FARC spokesman denied that the rebels were responsible, and said they would begin an investigation to find out who was responsible for the murder.

In a telegram sent today by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, to Bishop Nel Hedye Beltrán Santamaría of Sincelejo, John Paul II expresses "his heartfelt sympathy" and condemns the "always reproachable" violence "which so insistently lacerates the region."

Moreover, the Holy Father encourages all the diocese's priests and evangelizers "to put all their hope in the force of life and peace that comes from the risen Jesus to continue without being disheartened in their pastoral mission."

Monsignor Arias Posada's body was found in the municipality of Anserma, where he had gone on a peace mission.

Father Nelson Londoño, parish priest of Armenia's cathedral, said the vicar was found dead of bullet wounds in a car, along with the driver.

According to Father Bernardo Gómez of Holy Spirit Parish, where Monsignor Arias worked, unofficial sources said the priest hoped to mediate in the release of former Senator Ancízar López, kidnapped by FARC about six months ago.

Another telegram sent by the Pope, to Bishop José Roberto López Londoño of Armenia, expresses his "profound grief over this new act of injustice and ever-diffused violence in the country."

The Holy Father also exhorts "the pastors and faithful of this particular Colombian Church to strengthen their hope in these painful and difficult times, through an unbreakable faith in Christ, who has 'overcome the world.'"

Priests have become favorite targets of violent groups in Colombia. On Sept. 27, gunmen shot Father Jorge Sánchez and three of his collaborators in Restrepo. Father José Luis Arroyave was killed the previous week in Medellin.

The Colombian episcopal conference reported last July that armed groups over the past 18 years have killed 44 clerics, kidnapped 11, wounded seven and threatened 20. A bishop and archbishop are among the victims.