(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis arrives in Bogotà, the Colombian capital, on Wednesday at the start of his five day pastoral visit to the South American nation.
The Holy Father will be welcomed by Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos, together with other political and religious leaders, including the Archbishop of Bogotà, Cardinal Ruben Salazar.
The theme of the visit is ‘taking the first step’ towards peace and reconciliation in the country which has endured half a century of civil war between the government and leftwing guerilla groups. While a peace accord was signed in Cuba last year, violence continues in rural areas and the nation remains deeply divided.
Ahead of the pope’s arrival, Cardinal Salazar spoke about his expectations with our correspondent in Bogotà, Linda Bordoni:
Listen to Linda’s conversation with Colombian Cardinal Ruben Salazar:
The cardinal says this visit is “really very important” as the nation is living through a “very decisive moment in our history”. At this moment, he says, “we are leaving behind years of conflict, of war” and hoping “we can go towards peace, fraternity and solidarity”. In this sense, he adds, Pope Francis will have “very important” words for the Colombian people.
Pope's concern for "voiceless" victims
Asked about the many victims of Colombia’s civil war, the cardinal notes that in the city of Villavicencio on Friday, the pope will meet with some of those victims, as well as representatives of local indigenous communities. On Sunday, in Cartgena, the pope will meet members of the Afro-Colombian community and these meetings, the cardinal says, show that the Holy Father is “very concerned about the voiceless in Colombia”.
Minorities are key for peace
These minorities, Cardinal Salazar says, are now “the key for real peace” and in this sense, he insists, these meetings are “a moment of hope for all of us”.
Stewardship of creation
Finally the cardinal speaks about the important issue of ecology and the stewardship of creation, saying that the country has “important national resources” but it is vital to learn to use them without damaging the environment. At the moment, he says, “we are not so able to do that”.