Pope Francis' visit to Colombia: 10 highlights

Pope Francis' visit to Colombia: 10 highlights

By Marie Malzac/ la-croix.com

The Roman pontiff visited Colombia from September 6 to 11 on a mission to promote reconciliation. Here are ten big moments of his trip, which took place a year after a historic peace accord was struck between the government and FARC rebels.

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1. A poignant welcome

As Pope Francis disembarked from his plane in Bogota on September 6 he was greeted by a young boy with brown hair. The boy is called Emmanuel, he is 13, and the son of Clara Rojas, a former FARC hostage alongside Ingrid Betancourt.

Emmanuel was born in 2004 in the jungle while his mother was still being held captive. He lived apart from her during the first years of his life. He gave the pope a small dove-shaped sculpture as a sign of peace.

2. A call for reconciliation

“The search for peace is an unfinished task, one without respite that requires the commitment of all,” said the pope, addressing political and religious authorities gathered in the courtyard of the Casa de Nariño presidential palace in Bogota, on September 7. Francis was quoting Colombian Nobel Literature Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as he did on four occasions during his visit.

3. Mass for a million

A vast crowd braved pouring rain to gather for a mass given by the pope in the capital’s Bolivar Park. The rain stopped as the service began.

Denouncing “corrupting darkness”, the “disrespect for human life, (...) the thirst for vengeance and hatred”, and those “those who become insensitive to the suffering of so many victims", the pope called for people to move ahead in line with the words of Jesus.

4. Tokens of respect

On his arrival in Villavicencio, 80 kilometers from Bogota on September 8, Pope Francis was welcomed, just before saying Mass, by representatives of Colombia’s indigenous communities, who presented him with a necklace and a traditional hat.

In the Amazonia region, in the south of the country, indigenous communities are particularly numerous, comprising more than 72 different groups. The pope has repeatedly expressed his concern for the peoples of this geographical area, which extends over several Latin American countries

5. Priests beatified

Also while in Villavicencio, the Pope beatified two Colombian priests, Jesús Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve, the bishop of Arauca, who was assassinated in 1989, and Pedro María Ramírez, who was killed in 1948. Both men were casualties of Colombia’s civil conflicts.

6. The power of forgiveness

The most memorable event of the papal visit also took place in Villavicencio, where Francis presided over a big reconciliation meeting in the presence of 6,000 victims and 500 former members of FARC or paramilitary units. Some of them were able to testify to what they had experienced.

The story of Pastora Mira Garcia was particularly moving. At the age of six, her father was murdered. Just after she gave birth, her husband was killed. Her daughter was then kidnapped; her body only discovered seven years later. Finally, the paramilitaries kidnapped and killed her son.

Today, Garcia works alongside victims and has managed to forgive, “in spite of her unspeakable pain”. But the Pope also affirmed that “truth” and “justice” were necessary for reconciliation.

7. A call for renewal

Speaking about the Church in Colombia during an open air mass in Medellin attended by more than a million people, the Pope said, “renewal should not frighten us", even if it “presupposes sacrifice and courage".

8. Just say "no"

While in Medellin, the epicenter of the world’s cocaine trade and, for many years also the "violence capital" due to the cartel led by Pablo Escobar, who was gunned down in 1993, Francis encouraged residents to turn the page.

Medellin brings to mind how young people “have been so deceived, destroyed by drug gangs’ hired killers", the pope told a crowd of thousands in the Macarena arena, where dozens of people were killed in 1991 by a bomb planted by Escobar.

9. A bump to the head

In Cartagena de Indias, on September 10, the last day of his trip to Colombia, Pope Francis bruised his brow and cheekbone when his vehicle braked sharply.

He kept a smile and was tended to by Lorenza, a woman from the poor neighborhood of San Francisco who prepares meals for a hundred children every day.

10. A prayer for Venezuela

At the end of his trip, speaking at Cartagena’s St Pierre-Claver sanctuary, the pope once again expressed his concern for Venezuela. “I call for all kinds of violence to be rejected in political life and for a solution to be found to the serious ongoing crisis which affects everyone, especially the poorest and society’s least fortunate.”

Three days earlier in Bogota, Francis met briefly with Venezuelan bishops.

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 12:17
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