(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.