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Day: September 8, 2017

Pope very happy in Colombia says his spokesman

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis loves being in Colombia. The warm welcome of the people gives him a real “kick” says Greg Burke, papal spokesman and Holy See Press Office Director.
Burke was speaking to Vatican Radio at the end of day three of Francis’ 5-day visit to the nation and after a particularly emotional Prayer Meeting for Reconciliation in Villavicencio.
Listen to Linda Bordoni’s interview with Holy See Press Office Director, Greg Burke:

“I think he’s thrilled to be here” he said: “what he sees is a lot of young people, a lot of joyful people and he feeds off that joy.”
Burke spoke briefly about how special are the intimate moments that take place every evening in front of the nunciature before the Pope retires for the night.
“They are very short, they are organized along different themes” he explained and he recalled the encounter on Thursday evening with a group of disabled children with whom the Pope engaged telling them that “we are all vulnerable” and commenting later: “that was pure theology”.
Regarding Friday’s events focussed on Reconciliation in the town of Villavicencio Burke said they were very important for him as “from day one since his election he has been talking about mercy” and to be able to listen to the stories of the victims at the Prayer Meeting and how they have moved forward was very significant because that is what the Pope is about: “he’s about asking forgiveness of God;  he says we learn to ask forgiveness from others and we learn to grant forgiveness and when he sees that in action, it’s incredibly moving for him”.
Finally commenting on the sometimes rather “exuberant” enthusiasm of the Colombian people who run after the pope-mobile and try to grab him, Burke says “the Pope is totally calm and even gets a kick out of it.”
“Obviously here there’s a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of youth, so you are going to see a lot of people running after him!” he said.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope at Colombia prayer meeting for reconciliation weeps with victims

(Vatican Radio) White, the colour of peace, was worn on Friday by everyone present at the Prayer Meeting for National Reconciliation in the Colombian town of Villavicencio.
Our correspondent Linda Bordoni is in Colombia and sent this report:

A disfigured, mutilated and burnt black Christ hung over the gathering, a stark reminder of the evil of violence and death, that as Pope Francis said, breeds more violence and death in an endless cycle of destruction unless that chain is broken by the power of forgiveness and reconciliation.
He listened intently to the personal testimonies of victims and perpetrators of violence, their terrible stories of suffering and abuse acting as healing memories in the effort to overcome and unite for the good of the nation and all of its children.
And then Francis told them that he wasn’t at the meeting in Villavicencio to tell them what to do, but rather to weep with them and embrace them as they help their country take the first, difficult but fundamental steps towards peace.
He thanked Luz for the gift of her crutch, a symbol – he said – of the more important crutch we all need which is love and forgiveness.
He bowed to Pastora’s powerful and precious witness as she spoke of how the loss of two children to the conflict did not prevent her from conquering hatred and the desire for vengeance.
He listened to the stories of former guerrillas Deisy and Juan Carlos thanking them for helping us understand that they too are victims and that there is hope also for those who did wrong.
The crowd that lined the streets as Pope Francis was driven to pray and pay tribute to a memorial to the victims of the Colombian conflict also wore white.
A black stone on the memorial monument carries the number of those who died, ‘disappeared’ or were displaced: it reads 8 million four hundred and seventy two thousand one hundred and forty three.
As Pope Francis said right at the beginning of this heart-wrenching but incredibly uplifting afternoon, he had been especially looking forward to it.
It’s no secret he has come to Colombia as a pilgrim of peace and hopefully this simple but powerful time together will be forceful enough to create a deep and definitive fracture in that deadly cycle of violence that can only lead to more division and grief..
In Colombia with Pope Francis, I’m Linda Bordoni
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope in Colombia: Key points from reconciliation event in Villavicencio

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday held a prayer service for reconciliation  in Colombia , meeting with both victims and perpetrators of the violence that has plagued the country for over half a century.
Here are the highlights from his speech which you can read here :
Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s report:

It wasn’t so much words that Pope Francis wanted to offer Colombia’s injured and bereaved families, but rather a listening ear, a warm embrace and the chance to weep together with them.
He pointed to a broken Crucifix that once hung on the altar of a church in the town of Bojayà, site of a massacre of over a hundred people, mainly women and children in 2002. As paramilitaries and guerillas fought for control of a key drug trafficking route, terrified residents fled into the church.
Pope: Disfigured Christ shows love is stronger than death
FARC fighters launched gas cylinder bombs, one of which went through the roof and landed on the altar, blowing away the arms and legs of the crucified Christ. While Christ has been mutilated and wounded, the pope said, his face remains and reminds us that hatred doesn’t have the last word and that love is stronger than violence and death.
He said he was moved by the stories of suffering and anguish he’d just heard, but also by the words of love and forgiveness that speak of life and hope.
Pope: Break the cycle of hatred and revenge
Pope Francis listened to four people sharing dramatic, personal testimonies of the way they’ve suffered from the conflict, through injuries, the murder of family members or by fighting on one side or the other. He responded to each one, thanking them for their efforts to forgive and thus break the violent cycle of hatred and revenge.
It’s a huge challenge to learn to trust and welcome those who’ve committed offenses, the pope acknowledged, but it’s the only way to heal the pain and find peace.
Pope: Truth liberates and helps us to trust again
It’s also vital to uncover the truth, he said, helping families find out what really happened to their missing relatives or confessing violent crimes carried out in the name of warped ideologies.
Finally, Pope Francis prayed that all Colombians might be builders of peace, becoming the hands and feet of the disfigured Christ as they reach out to embrace, console and bless those who weep alone.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope addresses Colombian prayer for National Reconciliation: Full text

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis participated in a prayer for National Reconciliation in the Las Malocas Park in Villavicencio on Friday during his Apostolic Visit to Colombia, expressing his desire to be with the Colombian people who, he said, are carrying in their hearts and their flesh the signs of tragic events they have faced.
Addressing the people gathered for the prayer event, Pope Francis said he had been waiting for the moment from the time of his arrival. 
He said he wished to be close to the people and to see them with his own eyes, in order to open his heart to their witness of life and faith. 
Making the suffering the people of Colombia have gone through his own, the Holy Father said he wished to embrace them all and weep with them, asking them to pray for one another and ask forgiveness together so that together they could go forward in faith and hope.
The Pope was moved as he listened to the testimonies of four people.
He said their stories were not just of suffering and anguish, but also, and above all, that they were stories of love and forgiveness which speak to us of life and hope; stories of not letting hatred, vengeance or pain take control of our hearts.
Please find below the official English translation of the Pope’s prepared speech:
Friday, 8 September 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
          I have been looking forward to this moment since my arrival in your country.  You carry in your hearts and your flesh the signs of the recent, living memory of your people which is marked by tragic events, but also filled with heroic acts, great humanity, and the noble spiritual values of faith and hope.  I come here with respect and with a clear awareness that, like Moses, I am standing on sacred ground (cf. Ex 3:5).   A land watered by the blood of thousands of innocent victims and by the heart-breaking sorrow of their families and friends.  Wounds that are hard to heal and that hurt us all, because every act of violence committed against a human being is a wound in humanity’s flesh; every violent death diminishes us as people.
          I am here not so much to speak, but to be close to you and to see you with my own eyes, to listen to you and to open my heart to your witness of life and faith.  And if you will allow me, I wish also to embrace you and weep with you.  I would like us to pray together and to forgive one another – I also need to ask forgiveness – so that, together, we can all look and walk forward in faith and hope.
          We have gathered at the feet of the Crucifix of Bojayá, which witnessed and endured the massacre of more than a hundred people, who had come to the Church for refuge on 2 May 2002.  This image has a powerful symbolic and spiritual value.  As we look at it, we remember not only what happened on that day, but also the immense suffering, the many deaths and broken lives, and all the blood spilt in Colombia these past decades.  To see Christ this way, mutilated and wounded, questions us.  He no longer has arms, nor is his body there, but his face remains, with which he looks upon us and loves us.  Christ broken and without limbs is for us “even more Christ”, because he shows us once more that he came to suffer for his people and with his people. He came to show us that hatred does not have the last word, that love is stronger than death and violence.  He teaches us to transform pain into a source of life and resurrection, so that, with him, we may learn the power of forgiveness, the grandeur of love. 
I thank our brothers and sisters who have shared their testimonies with us, on behalf of so many others.  How good it is for us to hear their stories!  I am moved listening to them.  They are stories of suffering and anguish, but also, and above all, they are stories of love and forgiveness that speak to us of life and hope; stories of not letting hatred, vengeance or pain take control of our hearts.
The final prophecy of Psalm 85 – “Mercy and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other” (v. 10) – follows the working of grace and the petition to God: “Restore us!”  Thank you, Lord, for the witness of those who inflicted suffering and who ask for forgiveness; for the witness of those who suffered unjustly and who forgive.  This is only possible with your help and presence… this is already a great sign of your desire to restore peace and harmony in this land of Colombia.
          Pastora Mira, you put it well: you want to place all your suffering, and that of the thousands of victims, at the feet of Jesus Crucified, so that united to his suffering, it may be transformed into blessing and forgiveness so as to break the cycle of violence that has reigned over Colombia.  You are right: violence leads to more violence, hatred to more hatred, death to more death.  We must break this cycle which seems inescapable; this is only possible through forgiveness and reconciliation.  And you, dear Pastora, and so many others like you, have shown us that this is possible.  Yes, with the help of Christ alive in the midst of the community, it is possible to conquer hatred, it is possible to conquer death and it is possible to begin again and usher in a new Colombia.  Thank you, Pastora; you have helped us greatly today by the witness of your life.  It is the Crucified One of Bojayá who has given you this strength to forgive and to love, to help you to see in the shirt that your daughter Sandra Paola gave to your son Jorge Aníbal not only a remembrance of their deaths, but the hope that peace will finally triumph in Colombia. 
          We are also moved by what Luz Dary said in her testimony: that the wounds of the heart are deeper and more difficult to heal than those of the body.  This is true.  Even more important, you realized that it is not possible to live with resentment, but only with a love that liberates and builds .   And so you also began to heal the wounds of other victims, to rebuild their dignity.  This going out of yourself has enriched you, has helped you look ahead, find peace and serenity and a reason to keep moving forward.  I thank you for the crutch you have given me.  Although you still have physical side-effects from your injuries, your spiritual gait is fast and steady, because you think of others and want to help them.  Your crutch is a symbol of the more important crutch we all need, which is love and forgiveness.  By your love and forgiveness you are helping so many people to walk in life.  Thank you.
          I wish to acknowledge also the powerful testimony of Deisy and Juan Carlos.  You have helped us to understand that, in the end, in one way or another, we too are victims , innocent or guilty, but all victims.  We are all united in this loss of humanity that means violence and death.  Deisy has said it clearly: you realized that you yourself were a victim and you needed to be given a chance.  So you started to study, and now you work to help victims and prevent young people from falling into the snares of violence and drugs.  There is also hope for those who did wrong; all is not lost.  Of course justice requires that perpetrators of wrongdoing undergo moral and spiritual renewal.  As Deisy said, we must make a positive contribution to healing our society that has been wounded by violence.
          It can be difficult to believe that change is possible for those who appealed to a ruthless violence in order to promote their own agenda, protect their illegal affairs so they could gain wealth, or claim – dishonestly – that they were defending the lives of their brothers and sisters.  Undoubtedly, it is a challenge for each of us to trust that those who inflicted suffering on communities and on a whole country can take a step forward .  It is true that in this enormous field of Colombia there is nevertheless room for weeds…  You must be attentive to the fruit… care for the wheat and do not lose peace because of the weeds.  When the sower finds weeds mingled with the wheat, he or she is not alarmed.  Search for the way in which the Word becomes incarnate in concrete situations and produces the fruit of new life, even if it appears to be imperfect or incomplete (cf. Evangelii Gaudium , 24).  Even when conflicts, violence and feelings of vengeance remain, may we not prevent justice and mercy from embracing Colombia’s painful history.  Let us heal that pain and welcome every person who has committed offences, who admits their failures, is repentant and truly wants to make reparation, thus contributing to the building of a new order where justice and peace shine forth.
As Juan Carlos has let us glimpse in his testimony, throughout this long, difficult, but hopeful process of reconciliation, it is also indispensable to come to terms with the truth .  It is a great challenge, but a necessary one.  Truth is an inseparable companion of justice and mercy.  Together they are essential to building peace; each, moreover, prevents the other from being altered and transformed into instruments of revenge against the weakest.  Indeed, truth should not lead to revenge, but rather to reconciliation and forgiveness.  Truth means telling families torn apart by pain what happened to their missing relatives.  Truth means confessing what happened to minors recruited by violent people.  Truth means recognizing the pain of women who are victims of violence and abuse.
          I wish finally, as a brother and a father, to say this: Colombia, open your heart as the People of God and be reconciled.  Fear neither the truth nor justice.  Dear people of Colombia: do not be afraid of asking for forgiveness and offering it.  Do not resist that reconciliation which allows you to draw near and encounter one another as brothers and sisters, and surmount enmity.  Now is the time to heal wounds, to build bridges, to overcome differences.  It is time to defuse hatred, to renounce vengeance, and to open yourselves to a coexistence founded on justice, truth, and the creation of a genuine culture of fraternal encounter.  May we live in harmony and solidarity, as the Lord desires.  Let us pray to be builders of peace, so that where there is hatred and resentment, we may bring love and mercy (cf. Prayer attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi ).
I wish to place all of these intentions before the image of the Crucified One, the black Christ of Bojayá:
* * *
O black Christ of Bojayá,
who remind us of your passion and death;
together with your arms and feet
they have torn away your children
who sought refuge in you.
O black Christ of Bojayá,
who look tenderly upon us
and in whose face is serenity;
your heart beats
so that we may be received in your love.
O black Christ of Bojayá,
Grant us to commit ourselves to restoring your body.
May we be your feet that go forth to encounter
 our brothers and sisters in need;
your arms to embrace
 those who have lost their dignity;
your hands to bless and console
 those who weep alone.
Make us witnesses
to your love and infinite mercy. 
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope in Colombia at Beatification Mass: ‘Reconciliation is not an abstract word’

(Vatican Radio)  “Reconciliation is not an abstract word” Pope Francis told Colombians as he celebrated Mass in the city of Villavicencio , and he appealed to them to open a door to “every person who has experienced the tragic reality of conflict” because, he said, “when victims overcome the temptation to vengeance, they become the most credible protagonists for the process of building peace”.
The Pope’s words came during a Beatification Mass celebrated in the Colombian town which is seen as a symbolic model for reconciliation.
Villavicencio,  at the heart of an area which was once besieged by rebels, overwhelmingly backed the President’s peace plan and has taken the step of welcoming back the FARC whose leaders have pleaded for forgiveness and launched a development project.
The Mass comes on the second day of Francis’ visit to Colombia which is cantered on the theme “Reconciliation with God, among Colombians and with Nature.”
And the two Catholic priests beatified during the ceremony – Bishop Jesus Jaramillo and Father Pedro Ramirez – are intimately identified with Colombia’s conflict and provide strong testimonies in a nation in desperate need of forgiveness and healing.
Both of them, Pope Francis said, are “a sign of the expression of a people who wish to rise up out of the swamp of violence and bitterness,” a sign of the closeness of the Gospel and of the Church to its people.
Pope Francis’s call to Colombians to overcome what he called the “understandable” temptation of vengeance is key to the divided country’s reconstruction as is the inclusion of the many groups of victims of the conflict in the government’s plan for a peaceful future.
That’s why some 112 different communities of indigenous people were present as were thousands of victims from all walks of life.
The Pope’s beautiful homily included other key themes for reconciliation including the need to overcome chauvinistic attitudes towards women.
Reflecting on the Gospel reading of the day, Francis said it is a powerful commentary of a world in which “psychological, verbal and physical violence towards women is so evident.”
Overcoming that violence, he said, is also key to the sort of full reconciliation that recovery from  conflict requires.
And perhaps, most poignant of all was his call to reconcile with a “weeping” environment. Villavicencio is the door to the Colombian Amazon rainforest, home to many of the displaced or threatened indigenous communities and to the nation’s rich and wonderful natural heritage.
Quoting from his own encyclical “Laudato Sì” and from a Colombian songwriter he described the trees as weeping  witnesses to so many years of violence and said that  “the violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in water, in air, in all forms of life”.”
Saying “yes” to reconciliation – Pope Francis concluded – means saying “yes” with Mary and singing with her the wonders of the Lord who wishes Colombia to be reconciled: “a promise made also to its descendents forever”.
In Colombia with Pope Francis, I’m Linda Bordoni
(from Vatican Radio)…