Cardinal José de Jesús Pimiento Rodríguez, Archbishop emeritus of Manizales, was born on 18 February 1919 in Zapatoca, Colombia. Despite his family’s economic hardship, he was able to fulfil his dream of becoming a priest. He was ordained on 14 December 1941.
He began serving as coadjutor vicar in parishes in Mogotes and in the Cathedral of San Gil y Vélez. He was prefect and professor of the seminary, chaplain of the hospital of San Gil and coordinator of Social Action and diocesan Catholic Action.
He was appointed by Pope Pius XII as titular bishop of Apollonide and auxiliary of Pasto on 14 June 1955, receiving episcopal consecration on 28 August of the same year.
Four years later, John XXIII appointed him Bishop of Montería on 30 December 1959. In February 1964, he was appointed as bishop of Garzón by Pope Paul VI.
After participating in Vatican II, he was a delegate to the general conferences of the Latin American episcopate, held in Medellín in 1968, in Pueblo de los Ángeles, Mexico in 1979, and in Santo Domingo in 1992.
In 1972, he was appointed president of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia and served for six years. During that time he participated in several Synods and from 1972-1973 he was a counselor at the Apostolic Nuncio in Colombia for dialogue with the government in the revision of the accord.
On 22 May 1975, he became Archbishop of Manizales and served there for 21 years, placing great emphasis on applying Vatican II decrees, especially in the pastoral care of the family, of the youth and of society. He promoted the Council’s proposed renewal with parishes and the major archdiocesan seminary, in addition to updating the process of formation for priests and other vocations.
Throughout his episcopate he helped to realize centers for evangelization and catechesis in the archdiocese. He organized the restoration of the two of the Cathedral’s bell towers which had been damaged in the earthquake of 1979, the same year in which he organized the restructuring of the minor seminary which then became the archdiocesan major seminary. Following the eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano in 1985, he housed hundreds of people from Chinchiná, Papayal, Los Cuervos, La Guayana de Villamaría, La Paz and Encanto.
In 1995, he resigned as Archbishop of Manizales and retired to the city of Urabá, where he works in pastoral ministry. In 2005, he celebrated the golden jubilee of his episcopate.
He is one of the only living Council Fathers left.
Created and proclaimed Cardinal by Pope Francis in the consistory of 14 February 2015, of the Title of San Giovanni Crisostomo a Monte Sacro Alto (St. John Chrysostom in Monte Sacro Alto).
Owing to his age (96 years), he did not come to Rome for the consistory of February 14, 2015, but he received the Bull of the Creation of Cardinals, during a ceremony presieded over by H.E. Mons. Ettore Balestrero, Apostolic Nuncio in Colombia, in the Cathedral of Bogotá. It was Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez, Archbishop of Bogotá, to place cardinal's biretta on his head and to give him the cardinalatial ring.