Gail Howard’s Colombia Travel Adventures Story Part 3
Written by Gail Howard
Padre Leopoldo Von Kinder entered the room. Attired in a long black robe, he carried himself with grace and dignity. Although in his late 60's, he had twinkling blue eyes and soft, very white hands.
Von Kinder, who had taught Semitic languages at the University of Ulm in Germany, told us that six of the signs carved into the rock and repeated several times were without doubt Phoenician characters. One of them translates to, “I have arrived this far,” or, “Here I am.”
Von Kinder believed the Phoenician language was already degenerating when the La Yunga inscription was carved, which may account for the crudeness of the markings. He placed the date near the end of the Second Punic War when Hannibal was defeated at Zana. In 146 B.C. the Phoenician colony of Carthage was destroyed. The language lasted a few more centuries as a dialect in North Africa, then disappeared.
Von Kinder told us that grammatical pattern is more important than the actual words which can change over time. He claimed that South America has the greatest diversity of language in the world.
The padre lived among the 126 surviving Huitota Indians on the Putumayo River for six months, long enough to learn their language. He discovered that Huitota had a unique grammatical construction found only in Semitic languages, such as Hebrew and Phoenician. In 1936, the Colombian Government published his book, Gramatica Y Vocabulario De La Lengua Huitota (A Grammar and Vocabulary of the Huitota Language.)
If Von Kinder’s Phoenician theory was proved to be correct, then neither Columbus nor the Vikings were the first of the white race to touch American soil. He was waiting for his claim to be officially authenticated by etymologists at Berlin University, at which time he would publish his complete translation of the Phoenician signs on the La Yunga rock. In the meantime, the padre answered his critics, “Amanecera y veremos.” “The sun will rise and we will see,” and “Truth is the daughter of Time.”
The padres showed us his library which had 320 foreign language grammar books, and Bibles in 150 languages. Hidden behind his language books was a collection of 500 detective stories and mysteries – his only entertainment.
Leopoldo Von Kinder could speak more than 300 languages. His proof of being able to speak a language was the ability to compose poetry in that language. He had written poems in honor of Ave Maria in 322 languages. He also translated poetry from one language into another. Von Kinder had a passion for language even as a boy in Prussia. When we met him, he still was learning 100 new words every day before breakfast.
The padre-linguist told us that the world’s oldest language was Sumero-Akkadian. He believed it existed before the Deluge, and that it was already a dead language at the time of Moses. After the destruction of the Tower of Babel, it was dispersed into 40 languages. Of those 40, only Sanskrit, Aramaic, Chinese, Assyrian-Babylonian, and Egyptian hieroglyphics are known today.
Von Kinder invited us back – every day. One day he said he had a surprise for us. Did we believe in ghosts? He told us that when he was living alone in a house in the country, he would hear doors shut and other noises.
One night, something pulled his ear. Another night something banged on his knee. Later he actually saw a man, wearing a sombrero and poncho, appear before him. The padre got out of bed and came toward the man to grab him, but grabbed only air. The man reappeared, and pointed to the floor under the piano.
He told the padre that before he died he had hidden some coins in a box under the floor. He could not rest in peace until he gave up all material possessions and asked if the Padre would remove the coin box.
Von Kinder did not believe the man, but out of curiosity, took a crowbar and lifted the floorboards under the piano. He reached into the darkness with his hands, and to his astonishment pulled out a metal box filled with Colombian coins. From that moment on, the padre believed in ghosts.
Von Kinder showed us the metal box he had found and gave each of us a few of the coins, which were dated from the 1880's.
Another day, von Kinder told us about his visit in Bavaria with the famous Theresa Neumann (who later was canonized as a saint). Scientists had observed Theresa Neumann over a period of time and verified that she never ate or drank anything. She was guileless and candid with everyone who sought her out, revealing only the truth as she knew it intuitively. She told some priests things that made them weep, feel embarrassed or ashamed.
Von Kinder described her as very plain, but god-like. He laughed at her accent, which seemed strange to him. Then she told him about a vision she saw before her. She said Von Kinder would be going to Colombia, and that he would die there. His 40 year-old wish would be realized because he would die for the Church, a martyr’s death – by firing squad. Soldiers would be lined up. They would shoot, but he would not fall. Finally, one would come up and shoot Von Kinder in the head, and he would fall.
“Write this down in your journals,” he said. “When the time comes, which may be soon, you will know this had been foretold.”
In Von Kinder’s childhood, his schoolmaster had seen a vision. He told his class that one of the students would die for his country – and one did die in World War II caring for the wounded in a hospital – and another would die a martyr for the Church. Von Kinder intuitively knew he would be that one.
Von Kinder confided to us that he had always felt suppressed by the political maneuvering within the Church. He believed he was shoved into an ineffectual position by his ecclesiastical superiors. He wore two rings, one ruby and one sapphire, which were allowed to be worn only by Bishops or those who had received a doctorate in the Vatican.
With his three doctorate degrees, I could understand how padre Von Kinder would create enemies among his colleagues, whom he could put to shame with his intellectual prowess. Now that he was retired, he said, the priests don’t bother him, “but give me some 25 hours in each day for my own studies.”
When Terry and I said our final goodbyes, padre Von Kinder told us, “You have brought sunshine into my house.”