Cardinal Rubiano Saenz was born in Cartago, Colombia, on 13 September 1932. He studied for the priesthood at the seminary in Popayán before his ordination on 8 July 1956. He was elected bishop of Cúcuta on 2 June 1971 and consecrated on 11 July 1972 by Archbishop Angelo Palmas, Nuncio in Columbia. He was made Coadjutor Archbishop of Cali on 26 March 1983 and succeeded to full governance of the Archdiocese on 7 February 1985. He was president of the Colombian Bishops' Conference from 1990-1993 and then again from 1993-1996. He was made Archbishop of Bogotá and primate of Colombia on 27 December 1994.