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Missing Panama cardinal found 'safe and sound'

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) -Jose Luis Lacunza, a Roman Catholic Cardinal who was reported missing has been found "safe and sound" near his diocese in western Panama, the Central American country's police said on X on Thursday.

A video shared on the social platform shows a police officer speaking with the 79-year-old Spanish-Panamanian bishop of the Diocese of David - the country's senior Catholic cleric - through a car window. He was located in Boquete, police said.

Local TV channel Telemetro reported that a hospital in Chiriqui province near Panama's western border with Costa Rica - and where Lacunza's diocese is based - was expecting his arrival later on Thursday.

Lacunza's diocese had told reporters that he had been missing for at least 48 hours, and local media had reported he was last seen on Tuesday leaving in his car from his residence in Ciudad David, the capital of Chiriqui.

Officials were formally notified of his possible disappearance on Wednesday night.

Villagers had reported his car parked nearby and alerted the police, according to Telemetro.

In the video, a police officer can be seen offering the cardinal some water as he sits in a car in a grassy field.

The police statement on X did not explain why he had gone missing.

"We give thanks for the prayers and expressions of solidarity," Panama's Catholic Church said in a statement shortly after he was found.

The Archdiocese of Panama had called on the faithful to pray for the cardinal's safe return, while Spain's Episcopal Conference also issued a statement expressing their worries.

(Reporting by Elida Moreno in Panama City, Aida Pelaez-Fernandez and Tomas Bravo in Mexico City and Pietro Lobardi in Madrid; Writing by Sarah Morland; Editing by David Alire Garcia, Cassandra Garrison, Jonathan Oatis and Sonali Paul)