He quickly gained a reputation as a selfless servant who was close to his people, and launched several pastoral projects aimed at helping the local population.
Jamillo became an outspoken critic of the violence that was being committed by the National Liberation Army (ELN) at the time, however, he was also unafraid to call out what he referred to as a climate of fear among the people that often prompted them to retaliate against the guerrillas.
It was his public criticism of violence that led to his kidnapping Oct. 2, 1989, as he was making a pastoral visit to local parishes in Fortul. According to his biography, he celebrated Mass and administered some Sacraments before setting out for the city on foot when he and his delegation were stopped by armed militants dressed as peasants.
They asked for the bishop, telling him they were members of the ELN and that he was being kidnapped in order to “send a message” to the national government. One of the priests traveling with Jamillo, Fr. Helmer Muñoz, realized what was happening and refused to leave the bishop's side.
The two were driven for several hours before stopping in a remote location. After praying together and absolving each others' sins, Jamillo ordered Fr. Muñoz to leave out of obedience when the captors demanded that he go. As he was walking away, Muñoz heard the the bishops' last known words, when he said: “I will speak to whoever you want me to, but please, don't do anything to my son.”
Despite reassurances from the captors that Bishop Jamillo would not be hurt, when Fr. Muñoz returned to the spot the following morning he found the bishop's body. Jamillo was lying on his back in the form of a cross, having been shot in the head twice; his episcopal ring was gone, and his pectoral cross had been broken.
He was buried shortly after and dubbed by the faithful of Arauca as “prophet and martyr of peace,” which is engraved on his tombstone.
The murder of Fr. Pedro María Ramírez Ramos also came at another contentious point in Colombia's history, when the country was facing divisions after the death of left-wing presidential candidate Jorge Eliecer Gaitan.
Born in La Plata, Colombia Oct. 23, 1899, Ramirez was just 12-years-old when his brother, Luis Antonio, invited him to join the seminary. He was officially enrolled in the seminary of Mayor de Garzon in 1915, but left in 1920. However, he entered the seminary again in 1928, this time in Ibague.
Ramírez was ordained a priest just three years later on June 21, 1931. He then served as pastor in various cities until 1946, when he was assigned to Armero just as political conflict in the country began to intensify.
After Gaitan's death, tensions between liberals and conservatives reached a fever pitch, eventually leading to Colombia's 10-year civil war, which lasted from 1948-1958 and is commonly referred to as “La Violencia,” or “the Violence.” It was out of this conflict that many of the left-leaning guerrilla groups who have fought against the government for the past 50 years rose.
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Amid the chaos of the war, many liberal party groups in Armero protested Gaitan's death by taking up arms, widely accusing the Church of joining forces with the conservative party; accusations they backed with the Church's alleged support for conservatives and their frequent appeals to nonviolence.
It was in this atmosphere that an angry mob, alight with anti-religious sentiments, stormed Fr. Ramirez's parish and a nearby convent April 9, 1949, in an attempt to arrest him.
They started throwing stones and eventually broke into the curial house and went to the chapel, where Fr. Ramirez was praying. He managed to escape with the help of one of the nuns.
The next morning, Ramirez continued his schedule as normal, celebrating Mass and visiting a wounded man in prison. Despite numerous pleas from parishioners and even the city's mayor to leave town, Ramirez refused, insisting that he would not leave the sisters or the Blessed Sacrament alone.
After returning from the prison, the priest created an escape plan for the sisters, and had them consume all the consecrated hosts, leaving just one for himself. He then stayed in the convent to pen his last will and testament before the mob returned.
In the letter with his testament, Ramirez wrote that “I want to die for Christ and for his faith.” He thanked the bishop for allowing him to become a priest for the people of Armero, “for whom I want to spill my blood.”