(Vatican Radio) One of the highlights of Pope Francis’ Sept. 6-11 Apostolic visit to Colombia, is to offer the nation emerging from decades of armed conflict, two martyrs to imitate in their task of peace, reconciliation and nation building.
At a morning Mass on Friday in Villavicencio, some 94 kms southeast of the capital Bogota, Pope Francis will declare Bishop Jesús Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve of Arauca and Father Pedro María Ramírez Ramos Blessed, which is a step away from final sainthood. Both were killed for their faith in the last century.
Critic of rights abuses
A strong critic of the armed rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), Bishop Jaramillo, a member of the Xaverian Missionaries of Yarumal, spoke out against the group’s atrocities in the conflict and a drug war. Opting to be the voice of the poor and the marginalized, he came to be known as a zealous and caring pastor, fighting against social injustice. The ELN, that on Monday agreed to a temporary ceasefire with the Colombian government, killed Bishop Jaramillo on Oct. 2, 1989, after kidnapping him.
Redemptorist priest, Fr. Antonio Marrazzo, the postulator or promoter of the beatification and canonization of Bishop Jaramillo, spoke to Vatican Radio about his martyrdom. He said the 73-year old bishop preached the Gospel not just by word but more by promoting the human person. He joined the Xaverians who were reaching out to Colombia’s remote and abandoned regions inhabited by peasants and the natives. He set up institutions for their uplift and also started a hospital for them.
Fr. Marazzo noted that Bishop Jaramillo lived at a time when the armed guerilla groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were born. The ELN, active in the area of the bishop, criticized and calumniated him and his apostolate. The group also falsely denounced the bishop for misappropriating the salaries of teachers from an institution set by the government in collaboration with the bishops’ conference.
Serene in his last moments
The postulator said that Bishop Jaramillo was killed for his faith because he was a stumbling block to the ELN ideology. The bishop was on a parish visit along with two priests, when they were abducted by the rebels. The bishop asked that the priests be allowed to go. One of the priests came back to the spot where they were abducted and found the tortured body of Bishop Jaramillo with several bullet wounds.
Fr. Marazzo noted that Bishop Jaramillo is well known to Colombians, including young people, particularly for his integrity of life and total fidelity to Christ. From the two priests who were abducted by the rebels, Fr. Marazzo said, they came to know that the bishop was serene in his last moments, knowing he was doing God’s will. The fact that Pope Francis is himself beatifying Bishop Jaramillo, is not just a sign of hope but also an invitation and an exhortation to the people to forge ahead in promoting the human person in his/her integrity.