Pope Francis dedicated his General Audience remarks to his recent Apostolic Visit to Colombia, which concluded on Sunday.
After thanking the many people who helped make his Visit possible, Pope Francis said one of the most striking things on his visit was the many fathers and mothers who brought their children to see the Pope, and to be blessed by him. He said a people capable of having children, and of lifting them up with such pride, has a future – and this, he said, “pleased me very much.”
CONTINUITY WITH EARLIER PAPAL VISITS
The Holy Father noted that his Visit was in continuity with those of the two previous Popes who had travelled to Colombia, Bd Paul VI and St John Paul II. This continuity, he said, was “animated by the Spirit, who guides the steps of the people of God along the paths of history.”
“LET US TAKE THE FIRST STEP”
Referring to the motto of the Visit, “Let us take the first step,” Pope Francis said the process of reconciliation in Colombia, after a half century of internal conflict, has now begun. “With my visit,” he said, “I wanted to bless the effort of that people, to confirm them in faith and in hope, and to receive their testimony, which is a richness for my ministry and for the whole Church.”
Colombia, like most Latin American countries, is a country with strong Christian roots. Pope Francis said it was clear “that the Evil One wanted to divide the people to destroy the work of God, but is equally evident that the love of Christ, His infinite mercy, is stronger than sin and death.”
The Pope then recalled highlights of his trip, including the meeting with young people in Bogotá, and the meeting with priests and religious in Medellín, which was dedicated to the idea of the Christian life as discipleship. In Cartagena, the city of St Peter Claver, “the ‘focus’ was on the promotion of the human person and on his fundamental rights.” Saint Peter, the Pope said, gave his life in service to “the poorest and most marginalized,” and so demonstrated “the way of the true revelation, evangelical not ideological, that truly frees people and societies from the slavery of yesterday and, unfortunately, even of today.”
But it was the visit to Villavicencio, the Pope said, that was “the culminating moment of the whole visit,” with the morning Mass featuring the beatification of two martyrs; and the special “Liturgy of Reconciliation” in the evening. “Reconciliation” was the theme of the day, with the beatification calling into bold relief the idea that “that peace is founded also, and perhaps above all, on the blood of so many witnesses of love, of truth, of justice, and also of true and proper martyrs.” The evening liturgical service, meanwhile, dwelt on the prophetic words of the Psalm: “Mercy and truth shall meet / Justice and peace shall kiss.” These words, the Pope said, were “incarnated” in the stories of the many witnesses who spoke during the service, witnesses who, starting from their own wounds, were nonetheless able to go beyond themselves and open themselves to encounter, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Pope Francis concluded the morning Audience by once more dedicating Colombia to Our Lady of Chiquinquirá, the Patron of Colombia. “With the help of Mary,” he said, “each and every Colombian can take each day the first step toward their brother or sister, and so build together, day by day, peace in love, in justice, and in truth.”