Catholic World News

Pope’s first day in Colombia: stress on reconciliation

September 07, 2017

In the first full day of his visit to Colombia, September 7, Pope Francis said that he was making “a journey of peace and reconciliation,” and spoke consistently about the need for reconciliation in a country torn by years of civil war.

On Thursday morning, after a courtesy visit with President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon, the Holy Father addressed the country’s political leaders, telling them that he was delighted to “express my appreciation for all the efforts undertaken over the last decades to end armed violence and to seek out paths of reconciliation.” He urged the nation’s leaders to promote a “culture of encounter” and to be especially mindful of “all those who today are excluded and marginalized by society.”

The Pope said:

The motto of this country is: “Freedom and Order.” These two words contain a complete lesson. Citizens must be valued according to their freedom and be protected by a stable order. It is not the law of the most powerful, but rather the power of the law, approved by all, that regulates a peaceful coexistence. Just laws are needed, which can ensure harmony and which can help overcome the conflicts that have torn apart this nation for decades; laws are required which are not born from the pragmatic need to order society but rather arise from the desire to resolve the structural causes of poverty that lead to exclusion and violence.

In the evening the Pontiff met with the bishops of Colombia, and delivered a lengthy address that again focused on the need for reconciliation. Citing the words of the Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, one of his favorite authors, the Pope said that war draws on “the basest instincts of our hearts” and is nourished by fear that is “a poisoned root, a bitter fruit, and a painful legacy of every conflict.”

Pope Francis drew attention to the theme that had been chosen for his trip: “Let’s take the first step.” He said that “God is the Lord of the first step,” and asked the bishops to act as “guardians and sacrament of the first step.”

The Pope also asked the bishops to preserve the diversity of the Catholic community in Colombia, making a special reference to its African roots. He underlined the importance of preserving “the uniqueness of its varied and legitimate strengths, its pastoral sensitivities, its regional peculiarities, its historical memories and its wealth of distinct ecclesial experiences.”

Earlier in the day, in a meeting with over 20,000 young people in Bolivar Square, the Pope had acknowledged that the youth of Colombia had “endured difficult and dark moments” in the years of civil war. He encouraged them now, however, “Dare to dream big!”

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