The president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, unexpectedly put forth a proposal Monday asking Pope Benedict XVI name a delegate to negotiate the release of six hostages being held by the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC), although the Colombian Ambassador to the Holy See said the mediation could fall to the Colombian bishops.
The FARC announced on December 21 their intention to release the ex-governor of the province of Meta, Alan Jara, former congressman Sigifredo Lopez, three police officers and a soldier, but only on condition that a “representative of the international community” together with the International Red Cross Committee be involved in the release.
President Uribe has resisted participation by any foreign government, but before departing for the United States this week, where he will receive the Presidential Medal of Honor from George W. Bush, he said, “If the Catholic Church, at the national level or even at the Vatican, the Vatican Secretary of State, or the person or institution designated by his Holiness can help to secure the release of the hostages, the Government would authorize that and would welcome it.”
The Catholic Church in Colombia said it was “surprised” by the president’s proposal, although it said it was willing to facilitate the release of the hostages. “In recent days there has been no dialogue in that sense,” said Archbishop Ruben Salazar, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia.
Family members of the hostages reacted positively to the news. “We have received the words of the President with much optimism and we are convinced that every moment we are closer to seeing them and embracing them,” said Claudia Rugeles, the wife of former Governor Jara.
In Rome, Colombia’s ambassador to the Holy See, Juan Gomez Martinez, told the French news agency AFP, “The Colombian Church or the Apostolic Nuncio in Colombia could participate in the release of the hostages that the guerillas are willing to release,” but he added, “For now, no official request from the Colombian government has been sent to the Vatican.”