Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota said that terror can never be the seed of justice and peace, following Thursday’s car bomb attack at a police academy in the Colombian capital.

The Jan. 17 attack which killed 21 has been attributed to the National Liberation Army (ELN), a left-wing guerilla group. Dozens more were injured, but most have been released from hospital.

“Death, violence and terror can never be the seed of justice and peace,” Cardinal Salazar said in a message posted on the Archdiocese of Bogota’s Twitter account.

“We reject this and every attack that violates the dignity of persons and society,” he added. Cardinal Salazar also expressed his “solidarity with the nation, the police, the victims and their families, and we implore the Lord for forgiveness and peace.”

A vehicle carrying 175 pounds of pentolite, a military-grade explosive, accelerated into the General Santander police academy after being stopped at a checkpoint. The pentolite detonated when the SUV struck a wall. The academy was holding a promotion ceremony for cadets.

Attorney General Néstor Humberto Martínez reported that the vehicle’s driver was José Aldemar Rojas Rodríguez, the ELN’s top explosives expert, and that an accomplice had been arrested in Bogota.

Miguel Ceballos, High Commissioner for Peace, said the government will not dialogue with the ELN “until they hand over all the kidnapped people and completely renounce their criminal acts.”

Archbishop Oscar Urbina Ortega of Villavicencio, president of the Colombian bishops’ conference, stated that “every act of violence engenders more violence, which is why we reiterate the call to continue to work for reconciliation in the country. We pray for the victims. We stand in solidarity with their families and the national police.”

“I ask you to not lose heart in working to overcome enmities and creating bridges that lead us to fraternity in the family and in the various social environments,” he added.

The Military diocese also offered prayers for the victims, their families, and the officer training school.

In a telegram to Cardinal Salazar from Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis expressed his “deep sorrow for the victims who lost their lives in such an inhuman act.”

On the scene of the blast, the president of Colombia, Ivan Duque, said that the attack was “not just against young people, or the police, but against all of society.”

He said that what happened “was a demented terrorist attack which will not go unpunished,” and that
“we will act with unbending determination.”

Car bombings were once not uncommon in the Colombian conflict, which has been ongoing among the government, right-wing paramilitaries, and left-wing guerillas since 1964.

The conflict has abated since a 2016 peace deal between the government and the largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Duque has not taken up peace talks with the ELN.

This article was originally published by ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by TCO.