Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos died last month at the age of 88. Towards the end of his life he was a controversial figure for his handling of the Church’s sex abuse crisis and for some missteps in his work to regularize SSPX.
But as a pastor in Colombia he was fearless. He roamed the streets handing out food and would even go into the jungle to mediate peace talks between warring groups.
One of the most incredible stories of his life is when he went undercover and pleaded with the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar.
Yes, this really happened. Here’s the story:
Colombian Pablo Escobar was one of the most successful drug traffickers ever. At the height of his power, his murderous organization was supplying 80% of the cocaine smuggled into the US, and he was personally worth around $30 billion – making him the wealthiest criminal in history.
By the 1990s, though, the Colombian government was closing in on Escobar and he was holed up in his house with lots of security.
That’s when Bishop Hoyos (he was made a Cardinal later) showed up dressed as a simple milkman selling his goods door-to-door. He knocked on the door and was able to gain entry into the house.
Suspicious of who he really was, Escobar demanded to know who sent him. Bp. Hoyos responded: “The one will judge you.”
With his identity as a bishop now known, Bp. Hoyos pleaded with Escobar to give up his life of crime and confess his sins, both for the sake of Colombia and for his soul.
Amazingly, he successfully convinced Escobar to do a confession, which he did right there with the bishop! Escobar also agreed to completely dismantled his criminal empire, but only on the condition that the government of Colombia would leave him alone. Bp. Hoyo relayed his offer to the Colombian government who rejected it. Not much later, Escobar was gunned down in a shootout with Colombian police.
Bp. Hoyos went on to be made a Cardinal by Pope St. John Paul II and served at the Vatican.