(Vatican Radio) Amongst the over one million faithful attending the Papal Mass in Bogotá on Thursday there were thousands of victims of Colombia’s conflict and groups of Venezuelan refugees on the run from violence and misery in their own country.
The former in search of the strength needed to forgive, the latter hoping for consolation and support, support they have been receiving from the Churches on the border between the two countries, and from Venezuelan and Colombian Bishops who are setting up an emergency pastoral programme in response to the situation.
In the city's Simon Bolivar park, the deeply religious faithful listened in sombre silence as Pope Francis denounced the “thick darkness'' that sparks violence and takes human lives in Colombia and elsewhere.
He said such darkness is a “thirst for vengeance and the hatred which stains the hands of those who would right wrongs on their own authority, the darkness of those who become numb to the pain of so many victims.''
The Pope has described himself as a “pilgrim of peace” in Colombia which is trying to take the first steps of a difficult post-conflict process. A process set off by the signing of a peace deal between the government and FARC rebels who have disarmed and converted into a political party, and just last week the announcement of a bilateral ceasefire with the ELN rebel group.
Essential steps on the road to peace for sure, but true peace does not yet reign in Colombia where ongoing violence by paramilitary groups and a fistful of smaller rebel militias continues to displace communities and create power vacuums in territories now being taken over by paramilitaries and drug traffickers.
So, well aware of his flock’s deep need for words of enlightenment indicating the direction and beauty of human existence, Pope Francis reminded the faithful to trust in the Lord “whose word – he said - is fruitful even where the hostility of human darkness” destroys and plunders.
“We need to call out to one another, to signal each other” he said, to see each other again as “brothers and sisters, companions on the way, partners in this common cause which is the homeland”.
The Pope concluded his homily quoting the theme of this intense day of faith, support, comfort and commitment in Bogotà: leave selfishness, fears and paralysis behind – he said - and become “artisans of peace, promoters of life”.
In Bogotà with Pope Francis, I’m Linda Bordoni
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