Pope Francis in Colombia: Key points from speech to President Santos
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ first meeting in Colombia on Thursday was with President Manuel Santos, as well as other government and civil authorities gathered outside the presidential palace.
Below are three key points from that speech, which you can read here.
Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s report:
Hands up, who knew that Colombia ranks second in the world in terms of biodiversity? From its Andean mountain ranges to its Amazon rainforests, its Caribbean coast line and its vast tropical plains, it’s a nation blessed with a vast variety of flora and fauna.
Pope: Careful respect for Colombia’s biodiversity
But as the pope told the country’s leaders, such natural beauty brings with it a responsibility to respect that biodiversity and preserve it for future generations. That’s not exactly the policy the Colombian government is currently pursuing, with an economic model based on mining, energy and the exploitation of natural resources, without worrying about the impact it will have on local communities.
Pope: Vibrant culture of this nation
But, as anyone who’s studied Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato Si’ well knows, environmental protection makes most sense in the context of caring for human life, especially the poorest and most marginalized. They’re the ones who suffer most from the destruction of land and the devastation of natural habitats, disrupting ancient ways of life that have existed among Colombia’s indigenous communities for centuries.
Pope: Marginalised must be included in Colombia’s future
Speaking to President Santos, scion of one of Colombia’s wealthiest families, the pope stressed that poverty leads to violence and inequality is at the root of social ills. Noting the rich variety of ethnic groups and their vibrant cultural traditions, he insisted that the “excluded and marginalized” – the women, the campesinos and the majority of mixed race people – must be listened to, as the nation seeks to move on from half a century of civil war.