Tag Archives: colombia

Pope Francis challenges Colombians to build peaceful future

Cities visited by Pope Francis in his trip to Colombia 6-11 Sept 2017.

VATICAN CITY  – Pope Francis has concluded his visit to Colombia where he spent five days (6-11 Sept 2017) meeting victims of the country’s civil war and urging all people to work together for peace and national reconciliation.

But as the spotlight fades and organisers dismantle the Mass venues, what effect will the pope’s words have on the politicians, religious leaders and Colombians from all walks of life who flocked to see and hear him speak in Cartagena, Medellin, Villavicencio and the capital, Bogotà?

Beatrice Canal, a professional translator and mother of two grown up children, shared her own reactions to the papal visit with Linda Bordoni, Vatican Radio correspondent in Bogota, on Sept 11.

Canal said she was “pleasantly surprised” and deeply moved to see so many people welcoming the pope “with happiness in their eyes.”

The visit, she said, “has brought us together” and “touched the hearts of every Colombian” who had the chance to see him at the main events or simply line the streets as he drove by.

She said she was happy to see that the trip was “completely unpolitical,” but as an overwhelmingly Catholic nation (over 80 percent of the population) “we were very touched by the visit.”

In particular, Canal said, Colombians are “all very happy that he is the first Latin American pope and “we see him as one of our own.”

Asked what impact the papal visit may have on the future of her country, Canal noted the pope spoke extensively “about peace and reaching out to others.”  She added: “I hope he leaves behind the desire in every Colombian to again feel and share that brotherly and fraternal love he’s been speaking so much about.”

While she acknowledged that the implementation of the peace agreements remains fraught with difficulties, the translator insisted that “every Colombian is hopeful to live in a country in peace.”

She noted that her own children, aged 30 and 35, have never lived in a country in peace, and that she was “a little girl when the violence broke out.”  She said: “I know that the signing of a paper does not translate immediately into peace, now comes the most difficult part where every Colombian has to chip into the process and to open our hearts and be accepting of the former insurgents.”

The victims, Canal concluded, need to “find a place in their hearts to want to forgive” and to be able to live, free of the fear that has caused so much suffering for those living the countryside. – vatican radio

Pope begins trip to Colombia

This is the official logo for Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to Colombia in September. (CNS)

Pope Francis left Rome on Wednesday morning, 6 Sept 2017, to begin the 20th foreign trip of his pontificate: a visit to Colombia.

The Pontiff is scheduled to arrive in Bogota at 4:30 in the afternoon, local time. Apart from an airport welcoming ceremony, no public events have been scheduled for the first day of the trip, giving the Holy Father time to rest and recover after the long plane trip.

On Thursday the Pope will begin a busy schedule of events, with a courtesy call at the presidential palace, a visit to the city’s cathedral, a meeting with members of the Latin American bishops’ conference CELAM, and an outdoor Mass at Simon Bolivar Park. In the following days he will visit the cities of Villavicencio, Medellin, and Cartagena before returning to Rome on September 11.

Although the apostolic nuncio in Colombia, Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, has stressed that the Pope’s papal visit will be primarily pastoral rather than political, the main focus of public attention will be the peace accord recently signed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the country’s government. Although that peace agreement is not universally popular, its signing marked an end to decades of fighting and paved the way for the visit by Pope Francis—who had earlier indicated that he wanted to visit Colombia when an accord was in place.

(Another smaller rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), announced a ceasefire just before the Pope’s arrival; hopes are high for a separate agreement ending the ELN’s guerrilla war as well.)

Before he boarded his flight from Rome on Wednesday morning, the Pope sent out a Twitter message underlining the importance of the peace agreement. He asked for prayers for his trip, noting that he was embarking on “a journey dedicated to reconciliation and peace.” The theme chosen for the papal voyage echoes the same message: “Let’s Take the First Step.”

While he preaches a message of reconciliation in Colombia, Pope Francis will also be facing questions about the mounting unrest in neighboring Venezuela. The tensions and shortages in that country have prompted hundreds of Venezuelan citizens to seek refuge in Colombia, and outbreaks of violence have heightened fears of an even greater exodus. Pope Francis—who to date has avoided directed criticism of Venezuela’s authoritarian leader, President Nicolas Maduro—will be under greater pressure to address the crisis directly while he is in Colombia.

In fact, he will face a delicate diplomatic test on that score even before he reaches Bogota. Traditionally the Pontiff sends a telegram of greeting to every country he flies over during an apostolic voyage. So Pope Francis will be expected to send a message to Maduro; the content of that message will be scrutinized for any signal of papal disapproval.

The Pope’s visit to South America will also bring up new questions about why he has not yet scheduled a trip to his native Argentina. As he prepared for his flight on September 6, the Pope was asked that question. He replied: “I don’t know. I still don’t know.”

As is his custom, the Pope dropped into the Roman basilica of St. Mary Major on Tuesday evening to pray before the image of the Virgin Mary, Salus Populi Romani, on the eve of his trip. – CWN

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