Marxist group claims responsibility, apologizes for murder of two priests

.- A Marxist rebel group in Colombia, the Army of National Liberation (ELN), issued a statement this week claiming responsibility for the murder of two priests, Father Vicente Rozo and Father Jesus Emilio Mora, who were both killed last week in the Diocese of Ocaña.

The priests’ drivers, Jose Carrascal and Edgar Vergel, were also killed during the attacks.

Authorities at first blamed the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) for the killings.  In its statement the ELN asks for forgiveness from the family members  and claims the deaths of the priests were “accidental.”

The group says the attacks were due to “intelligence and tactical errors.”  It also said the Church is not one of its targets and that it continues to consider the Church a bridge to facilitate a political solution to the country’s civil conflict.

Although the statement does not reveal any names of the perpetrators nor whether they will be handed over to authorities, the statement says that the “act will not go unpunished” and that the group would take the necessary measures in accord with its own “wartime rules of conduct and humane ethics.”

In a gesture of good will, the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro, expressed the bishops’ forgiveness of the ELN for the murder of the priests.

He said he would maintain his contacts with the ELN.  “As far as the Church is concerned, we forgive the ELN for what has happened.  Evidently we will continue to dialogue with them and with all of the illegally armed groups in order to search for peace,” the archbishop said.

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