Benedict XVI is praying for all Colombians, and especially for the military men, police and civilians who are held by kidnappers.

This was affirmed in a message written on his behalf by his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The papal note was announced at a press conference, and read by the secretary-general of Colombia’s bishops’ conference, Bishop Juan Vicente Cordoba of Fontibon. The Pope appealed for prompt dialogue and the conversion of those who kidnap, so that peace can be attained in the country.

He expressed to all the families of the kidnapped “the testimony of his closeness given the anguish over this iniquitous suffering, which no genuine political or social claim justifies.”

In response to this telegram, the Colombian episcopate appealed to all the faithful and people of good will to dedicate the intention of the Christmas spirit, for the release of the kidnapped. Bishop Cordoba recalled the Church’s offer to facilitate dialogue between the armed groups and the state.

In 2010, the phenomenon of abductions in Colombia increased again after several years of a decline: According to data from the Colombian Ministry of Defense, 282 individuals were kidnapped last year.

Officially, Colombia registers 24,000 kidnapped, but according to experts, the figure could be greater.

BOGOTA, Colombia, DEC. 16, 2011 (