Army Rescues Kidnapped Bishop in Colombia

Soldiers rescued a kidnapped Colombian bishop Friday after a battle with the rebels who were holding him, government officials said.

Bishop Jorge Enrique Jimenez, president of the Latin American bishops conference, was unharmed, an army spokeswoman said. The Rev. Desiderio Orjuela, who was kidnapped Monday along with Jimenez, also was freed.

The army killed one insurgent and captured another in the clash north of the capital, said Sandra Gomez of the Colombian army's Fifth Brigade.

"It is a great success for the army," Defense Minister Martha Lucia Ramirez told reporters in Bogota.

Pope John Paul II and other clerics had appealed for the release of the priests. They were snatched from a road about 35 miles north of the capital as they headed for a religious service.

The military has blamed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, for the clerics' abductions. The rebel group holds dozens of kidnapped politicians, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and a state governor, as well as soldiers, police and ordinary civilians.

The Latin American bishops conference determines Roman Catholic Church policy in the region and has a mandate covering the 22 nations of Latin America, home to nearly half the world's Catholics.

Earlier this year, the archbishop of Cali, Isaias Duarte, was shot and killed after performing a mass wedding in Colombia's third-largest city. Authorities are still investigating the motive for the slaying.

Since 1984, one archbishop, one bishop and 48 priests have been assassinated in Colombia, according to the bishops conference. Four bishops, 14 priests and a missionary have been kidnapped.

Colombia has the highest kidnapping rate in the world, with more than 3,000 people taken hostage last year. The rebels use kidnapping to press their political agenda as well as for ransom.