Pope leaves Colombia urging the people not to stop at the first step
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis came to Colombia to help its people “Take the first step” as the country tackles an uphill road to reconciliation and reconstruction.
And it was overwhelming to witness the real joy of the people who welcomed Pope Francis as a friend and a brother, with open arms.
But dire poverty, exclusion, degradation and need are everywhere here in Bogotá and elsewhere in the country. Even careful pre-papal visit efforts to clean and embellish city centres and the venues where Francis was scheduled to be, were unable to conceal the true face of a deeply divided society in which so many have been “discarded.” A reality that the Pope spoke of again and again during his five days in the country, a reality that could place the government’s plan for peace in serious jeopardy.
It was clear from the start of the visit that the eyes of the world were viewing this apostolic journey through a political perspective in such a crucial moment of the nation’s history. It was only when I started speaking to the people – people from all walks of life – did I realise that their joy for his presence sprung from a deep spiritual vitality and that the overwhelmingly Catholic Colombians received his presence as a blessing, a gift, a moment of grace, happiness and hope.
Of course they hope – and together with ‘Papa Francisco’ they are praying – for a conversion of hearts. And most of those whom I spoke to promise to heed his words of encouragement and say they are committed “to build peace, speaking not with tongue but with the hands and works”.
Pope Francis has asked them to forgive those who have harmed them as it is the only possibility in a dialogue aimed at healing and reconciliation; he has asked them to place reason above revenge and to resist normalizing the logic of violence and exclusion that is so deeply entrenched in their nation’s tragic history.
No easy feats for sure.
The lush beauty of Colombia’s environment, the rich diversity of its people, the political effort to overcome a decades-long conflict and build a new country based on reconciliation and harmony have all provided a powerful backdrop and extra poignancy to the themes dearest to Pope Francis.
And of course his devotion to Mary which resonates so intensely here in Colombia where the people venerate the Virgin of Chiquinquirá, an image of Our Lady who for many years was treated like an old piece of cloth, shown no respect and discarded. Then a humble woman had the courage and the faith to put the blurred and torn fabric upon which her figure is embroidered in a special place and restore its lost dignity. A powerful symbol indeed for many “discarded” Colombians.
It is in her loving hands and in the power of her intercession that Pope Francis has urged the people of Colombia to place themselves as they strive to find the path to true reconciliation, overcome division and regain the peace of which they have been robbed.
In Colombia,with Pope Francis I’m Linda Bordoni