(ENI)-Church leaders have condemned the assassination of Roman Catholic Archbishop Isaias Duarte Cancino of Colombia, who was gunned down on March 16 in Cali after presiding at a wedding.
Archbishop Duarte, 63, had been a long-time critic of the nation’s powerful drug traffickers and left-wing guerrillas, and speculation immediately arose that he had been killed by one of those groups. The Colombian government said it was offering a $434,000 (U.S.) reward for the arrest of the assassins.
“It is inconceivable that a good man, a man who dedicated his life to loving God and serving his brothers, has become a victim of the terrible violence that is ripping this country apart,” said Pedro Cardinal Rubiano of Bogota.
Observers said it was too soon to assess how the killing would affect what had already become a disintegrating situation in the war-torn country, where an estimated 40,000 people have been killed in the past decade. Peace initiatives between the Colom-bian government and the nation’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have recently collapsed.
Pope John Paul II, speaking at St. Peter’s in Rome, called Archbishop Duarte’s murder a “barbaric” act and praised the cleric, saying the archbishop had paid “a high price for his passionate defence of human life.”