Benedict to meet freed Betancourt

A Vatican spokesperson says that Pope Benedict will meet freed French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt who attributed her release to the intercession of the Virgin Mary.

The Canadian Press quotes a Vatican source saying the pope sent a telegram to Betancourt expressing his happiness that she was rescued from Colombian rebels, upon hearing the news.

It says her "understandable and noble desire" to be received by Benedict can be met as soon as his schedule allows.

The pope has moved to his vacation palace outside of Rome and is scheduled to leave for Australia on July 12.

The pope met with Betancourt's mother at the Vatican in February.

The 46 year old politician, a practising Catholic, described her release in a bloodless operation by the Colombian army as a 'miracle of the Virgin Mary'.

"The operation had the light of the Holy Spirit and the protection of Our Lord and the Virgin," Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a member of the conservative Opus Dei Catholic group, told the country's bishops. "It was an intelligence operation comparable to the major epics of the history of humanity."

Ms Betancourt, who has duel French-Colombian nationality. confirmed she suffered 'moments of real crisis, hardship and abuse' at the hands of Colombia's Marxist FARC rebels. Asked whether she was tortured, she replied 'Yes, yes.' 'The only thing to say about that is that we all have a duty to watch ourselves. I felt there were temptations to let yourself go towards diabolical behaviour... I think you need tremendous spirituality to stop yourself falling into the abyss.'

'It was so monstrous that I think they themselves were disgusted,' she said of her treatment by the rebels, according to an AFP report.


Freed Betancourt lands in France (The Australian, 5/7/08)

Vatican says Pope to meet Betancourt as soon as his schedule permits (Canadian Press, 6/7/08)

Freed hostage Betancourt spent three years in chains (Straits Times, 6/7/08)



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