CV NEWS FEED // Catholic Bishops in Panama have confirmed that the country’s first-ever cardinal disappeared for two days, then reappeared without explanation.
The news of Cardinal José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán’s disappearance was reported by the local news organization Eco TV and confirmed on February 1 by the Panamanian Bishops Conference.
In a statement posted in the X account of the Panamanian Bishops’ Conference, the bishops stated that “upon officially learning of the disappearance of our brother Cardinal José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán, bishop of the Diocese of David, we urge all the people of God to unite in constant prayer so that we can soon know his whereabouts.”
Later on the same day, Panama’s National Police announced on its Instagram account that “the analysis of the video surveillance cameras allowed the investigations to be directed towards (the local district) of Boquete, where Cardinal José Luis Lacunza, who was missing for two days, was found.”
Immediately after Lacunza’s reappearance, the Bishops Conference stated in an email sent to CatholicVote that “Cardinal José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán, bishop of the Diocese of David, has been found, according to a report from the authorities.”
“We are Grateful for the prayers and expressions of solidarity,” the brief statement added.
José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán, a Spanish-born Panamanian friar of the Order of Augustinian Recollects, is the bishop of David. The diocese is located in Chiriquí, the Westernmost part of the small country, on the border with Costa Rica.
Pope Francis elevated Lacunza to the rank of cardinal in February 2015 as part of the pontiff’s policy of creating cardinals in the “peripheries.” Lacunza is the first Panamanian and first member of his order (established in 1588) to be named a cardinal.
According to the Eco TV news story, Bishop Rafael Valdivieso, president of the Panamanian Bishops Conference, revealed that the cardinal was not carrying with him any items related to a possible planned trip when he left his residence on Tuesday, January 31.
Panama does not have the rampant crime rates of neighboring Colombia, so the possibility of a kidnapping is remote. Local authorities, nevertheless, have not ruled out the possibility.
“There is always a team that accompanies him. The vicar general and the pastoral vicar are the ones who have been especially closest to this investigation,” Bishop Valdivieso told Eco TV. “Until now, he was in his duties as bishop of the diocese.”
After he reappeared, the National Police offered no explanation of his disappearance. It was only communicated that he was found alone, driving his car.