Saturday, 22 November 2003

San Vicente del Caguan (Fides Service) – Safely back at their mission at last, seven missionaries of St John Eudes in southern Colombia lived a frightening experience at the hands of kidnappers. For several hours they were held hostage, insulted and robbed by a band of drugged and drunken criminals. The episode took place on Saturday 15 November but only now that the Religious have safely returned to their mission in Tagua has the news been reported to Fides.
Another kidnapping ended in tragedy. On 21 November police found the body of Father, Jose Rubin Rodrigues, aged 51, parish priest of La Salina (Casanare), in Arauca province. The priest had been abducted by a group of armed men on 14 November while visiting a family in the rural area of Tame. According to local police the kidnappers claimed to be members of FARC.
The south of Colombia where the seven missionaries of St John Eudes were held hostage is notorious for cocaine plantations, drug-trafficking, kidnappings, guerrillas and paramilitary groups . The missionaries two priests, Father Ariel Alvarez and Father Said Caselles, and five brothers, Br. Yobany, Br. Jaime, Br. Oswaldo, Br. Cristo and Br. Mariano, were on their way to San Vicente of Caguan for the annual meeting of San Vicente Vicariate with the Bishop and their Superior General.
On 15 November they set out from Tagua mission at five in the morning. After about four hours driving their vehicle was held up by a group of six masked men wearing rubber boots and civilian clothes over military uniforms. For three and a half hours the six men, clearly drugged and drunken, held the missionaries captive in the forest. “Those were three hours of fear–Father Efrain Mora, Superior missionaries in Italy told Fides – particularly because of the state of the aggressors who obviously under the effect of drugs. The bandits insulted and maltreated the missionaries physically, especially Brother Cristo who was wearing a religious habit”.
Before setting their prisoners free the criminals, still identified, robbed the religious of their few belongings. From Br Jaime they took 3.000 US dollars which were for the organisation of First Communion celebrations for 400 children at Tagua parish mission on December 8.
Colombia has been torn by civil war for 39 years. According to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference at least 58 Catholics have been killed in the last ten years, bishops, priests, religious men and women and laity.
The Missionary Institute of St John Eudes is a Society of Apostolic Life of diocesan right founded in Ocana diocese in Colombia, its charisma is mission ad gentes. Today the Institute has 16 priests and 105 Brothers, working in Colombia, Peru and Italy. In Colombia there are 10 priests and 80 Brothers.
(PA) (Fides Service 22/1172003 lines 35 words 373)