By Robin Gomes
Colombian Cardinal José de Jesús Pimiento, who at 100 was the oldest in the world and served under seven popes, passed away on Tuesday.
“The Catholic bishops of Colombia mourn the death of Cardinal José de Jesús Pimiento Rodríguez, Archbishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of Manizales," the Episcopal Conference of Colombia (CEC) wrote in a Twitter post.
Julio César Pimiento, nephew of the cardinal, told reporters that the cardinal, who was in poor health, suffered a heart attack on Tuesday afternoon in the town of Floridablanca in Bucaramanga Archdiocese, where he spent the last years of his life in Casa San José, a retreat centre for priests in the.
The bishops of Colombia offer prayers for the late cardinal and thank God for the testimony of his vocation and long life, his contribution to peace in the country and for raising awareness about development and the common good. At the same time, they extend their fraternal condolences to the family of the deceased cardinal and to the clergy of the Archdiocese of Bucaramanga.
Cardinal Pimiento was born in Zapatoca on 18 February 1919 and was ordained a priest on 14 December 1941.
Pope Pius XII appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of Pasto in December 1955, and, four years later, Pope St. John XXIII made him Bishop of Montería, from where Pope St. Paul VI transferred him to the Diocese of Garzón-Neiva in February 1964.
Between 1962 and 1965 he participated in the sessions of the Second Vatican Council and in 1972 he was elected president of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, a position he held until 1978.
In May 1975 he was appointed by Paul VI to the Archbishop's seat in Manizales, which he led for 21 years until his retirement in 1995, at the age of 77 under Pope St. John Paul II.
Just four days short of his 96th birthday, he was created a cardinal in the consistory of February 14, 2015, by Pope Francis. Being above 80 years of age, he was a non-elector cardinal, meaning he could not participate in a conclave to vote for a new pope.
Due to his advanced age, he could not be present at the consistory in the Vatican, but his cardinal’s hat and ring were sent to him which he received at a ceremony in the Cathedral of the Colombian capital, Bogota. The Episcopal Conference of Colombia regarded his elevation as "a recognition of his life and pastoral ministry”.
With the death of Cardinal Pimiento, the number of cardinals now stands at 214 cardinals, of whom 118 electors and 96 non-electors.