Pope Francis arrived in Colombia, shortly after 4 pm local time Wednesday to embark on what is to be his 20th international apostolic journey. His five day visit to Colombia is to promote reconciliation in a deeply Catholic country that is hesitant to offer forgiveness to each other after decades of mistrust, violence and war.
The Pope was greeted by Colombian President Santos and his wife as he stepped onto the tarmac. Children in traditional costumes presented him with flowers, and the Pope greeted members of the Colombian military, including soldiers injured in the line of duty. In a gesture to promote the themes of peace and reconciliation, he was given a dove by a boy, who was born in a guerrilla camp to a Colombian politician who was kidnapped in 2002 but released in 2008.
Enroute to the Apostolic Nunciature, the Pope’s motorcade was greeted by thousands of people who lined the streets just to catch a glimpse of this man who symbolizes hope and peace for their country.
This is the first papal trip to Colombia in 31 years after St. John Paul II visited the country in 1986. Expectations for the Pope’s' visit are running high among Colombian Catholics, especially since many Catholics object to the idea that Marxist guerrillas, accused of violent atrocities, will be receiving reduced punishments for their crimes, and will be able to participate in government politics.
Earlier today, the Pope made a courtesy visit to the president of Colombia and also met with government authorities before making his way to the Cathedral of Botoga where he addressed the people gathered there.
At the Cathedral, the Pope greeted the throngs of young people saying that, “I have come here to learn; yes, to learn from you, to learn from your faith, your strength in the face of adversity. You have endured difficult and dark moments, but the Lord is near you, in the heart of every son and daughter of this country. He is not selective, he does not exclude anyone but embraces all. We are all important to him. During these days I would like to share with you the most important truth, that God loves you, with the love of a Father, who encourages you to continue looking for and desiring peace, that peace which is authentic and abiding.”
The Pope encouraged the young people at the cathedral to encounter one another and, not only to be dutiful, but to be committed to renewing society, so that it will be just, stable and fruitful.
After a blessing of the faithful from the balcony of the Cardinal’s Palace, the Pope met with all the Colombian Bishops, where he told them that: "Through you, I embrace the whole Church in Colombia; I hold all your people in my heart, the heart of the Successor of Peter. I am very grateful for your ministry as bishops, and I ask you to carry it out with renewed generosity."
The Pope urged the Bishops to be ever vigilant, not only as individuals but as a collegial body, ever docile to the Holy Spirit. He reminded them that everything he says to them, comes as a continued teaching to the messages from the other two Popes that visited Colombia before him.
Blessed Paul VI visited Colombia after the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council to encourage the collegial realization of the mystery of the Church in Latin America, as did Saint John Paul II in his Apostolic Visit of 1986. “The words of my predecessors”, the Pope said, “are a lasting resource. The guidelines they set forth, and the marvellous synthesis that they proposed regarding your ministry as bishops, are a legacy to be treasured.”
The complete transcript of all the Pope’s addresses during his visit in Colombia, will be available on our website at saltandlighttv.org
You can watch our Salt + Light coverage of this historical Papal visit which will continue tomorrow morning at 10:30 am ET with the LIVE broadcast of the Papal Mass in Villavicencio.
This Mass will be the Beatification Mass for Bishop Jesus Jaramillo and for Fr. Pedro Ramirez, both martyrs of the Colombian armed conflict.
Tomorrow afternoon at 4:30 pm ET, we will bring you LIVE coverage of the Prayer Meeting for National Reconciliation. Our coverage then continues every day until Sunday, details on our website listed below.
In case you missed it, you can watch today's Papal Mass in Bogota, along with the daily recap of the Apostolic journey by Deacon Pedro through our website.
That's all that we have time for today. Join us again on Monday, when we bring you more news and stories from the Perspectives of a Catholic lens.
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