Pope calls for understanding in first formal speech in Colombia

08 September, 2017, 00:31 | Author: Essie Rivera
  • Victims who say they were harmed by the actions of priests and the Catholic Church speak at a Mass in Bogota Sept. 3

During Francis' first event of the day Thursday, a man broke through security and threw himself at Francis' feet on the red carpet as the pope arrived at the presidential palace. A teenage boy, born in 2004 to vice presidential candidate Clara Rojas when she was held captive in the jungle by the FARC, handed Francis a white porcelain dove as a welcome present.

"It's not the law of the most powerful, but rather the power of the law, approved by all, that regulates peaceful coexistence", Francis said, adding that just as laws are needed that can ensure harmony and help overcome conflicts, there also are laws required not because they respond to a pragmatic need to order society.

His Holiness will be also received by the President of the country, Juan Manuel Santos, at the Presidential Palace, home of the Colombian presidency, where he will be honored by members of the diplomatic staff, political and religious authorities and many representatives of the society.

He praised the pope for coming to this country at "this moment of utmost importance for the peace process". "A stable and lasting peace, so that we can see one another and treat one another as brothers, not as enemies".

Hosffman Ospino, a Colombian theologian at Boston College, told the New York Times that "It's risky ground for Pope Francis" because "half of the country disagrees with the peace process".

"We do not want any type of violence whatsoever to restrict or destroy one more life", he said.

Francis also acknowledged that seeking paths of building peace in Colombia is an endeavor that challenges the country not to abandon its efforts to build unity, despite the "obstacles, differences and varying perspectives on the way to achieve peaceful coexistence".

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He then reminded the media that "this plane we will fly over Venezuela", and here, too, he asked them to "pray that it can dialogue, a dialogue with everyone, so that the country can have good stability".

The motto of the September 6-11 trip, which will see the pontiff travel to four different cities and is expected to attract total crowds of some 4 million people, is "take the first step", an invitation to bury the hatchet.

Francis will beatify two Colombian priests killed during decades of guerrilla warfare, declaring them martyrs who were killed out of hatred for the Catholic faith. Some 300 people were sheltering in the church when it was hit during a three-way firefight between FARC rebels, right-wing militias and the army.

Ahead of Francis' arrival, Santos' government and the last remaining major rebel group, the National Liberation Army, or ELN, signed a bilateral cease-fire agreement, a significant step toward negotiating a permanent peace deal. At least 79 people died and 100 were injured.

The violence has left 260,000 people confirmed dead, 60,000 unaccounted for and seven million displaced.

Pope Francis is waving to crowds from his auto as he starts his first full day in Colombia, where he's stressing a message of reconciliation for a country emerging from five decades of armed conflict. Both used their visits to show solidarity with victims of violence, discrimination and poverty and to urge government authorities to fix the structural and societal problems that have made Colombia one of the most unequal countries in Latin America.



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