Colombian rebels kidnap bishop, promise will be released “carrying message”

Bishop Misael Vacca Ramirez of Yopal, Colombia, was kidnapped Sunday by members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) while he was making a pastoral visit to Morcote, northeast of Bogota. The rebels said they planned to release the bishop with a message to the government.

The Bishops Conference of Colombia expressed outrage at the kidnapping and demanded the ELN respect Bishop Vacca’s life.  Bishop Fabian Marulanda, General Secretary of the Conference, called the act “painful” and explained that Bishop Vacca was part of a Church committee seeking to bring about a dialogue between rebel groups and the government.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe ordered a rescue operation be carried out by the military, in conjunction with local police and the Colombian Air Force.

President Uribe held an emergency security meeting in Pereira with top military officials, who said they were willing to take the necessary measures to rescue the bishop.  “We are determined to see that the bishop is swiftly returned to freedom.  The kidnapping is inexplicable,” said President Uribe.

Bishop Vacca Ramirez was born in Somondoco, Colombia, on November 5, 1955.

His priestly formation took place in Tunja and in Bogota, and later in Rome, where he received a degree in theology with an emphasis in Youth ministry and catechesis in 1992.   

He was ordained to the priesthood on December 3, 1983, and was named Bishop of Yopal on June 22, 2001.

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