09/06/2017, 15.10
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Pope arrives in Colombia tonight to support reconciliation

Pope today tweeted, “Dear Friends, please pray for me and all of Colombia, where I will be travelling for a journey dedicated to reconciliation and peace.” His difficult trip includes several stages.

Rome (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis is on his way to Colombia for his 20th pastoral journey. The pontiff is scheduled to arrive at 4.30 pm local time. A simple ceremony without speeches is planned in Bogotá. No meetings are planned to give the pope time to recuperate from the jet lag.

The visit is being undertaken as a symbol of reconciliation, to mark an important stage in Colombia's history after 52 years of civil war, more than 260,000 deaths, more than 60,000 missing, 7 million displaced and refugees, and thousands of children soldiers.

“Dear Friends, please pray for me and all of Colombia, where I will be travelling for a journey dedicated to reconciliation and peace,” the Holy Father said in a tweet this morning. “I come as a pilgrim of hope and peace," he said in a video message sent to Colombia yesterday.

Calling on the people of Colombia to “take the first step", Francis urged them to build bridges to undertake the path of peace that he has so often emphasised.

“Peace’” he noted in the video message, “is what Colombia has sought after for a long time, and she is working to achieve it: A stable and lasting peace, so that we see and treat each other as brothers and not as enemies. Peace reminds us that we are all children of the same Father, who loves and consoles us.”

This won’t be easy. Despite an agreement between the government of President Manuel Santos, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC), violence continues, especially by the country’s drug cartels. Colombia is the world's top cocaine producer.

If Francis speaks of peace, he will certainly avoid delving into a very politically divisive situation. Not surprisingly, “It will be a pastoral visit,” Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said on Friday. “The peace issue will be on the agenda but first and foremost the pope wants to proclaim the Gospel.”

The latter will begin tomorrow during planned meetings with civil authorities and the governing committee of the Latin American Bishops’ Council (Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano, CELAM). In the afternoon, the pope will celebrate his first Mass in Colombia.

Friday, 8 September, will be devoted to national reconciliation. Francis will travel to Villavicencio where he will celebrate Mass and attend the Great Prayer Meeting for National Reconciliation, with an important stop at the Cross of Reconciliation.

The next day, Saturday, the Holy Father’s visit will continue in Medellin, a city associated to the most famous cocaine cartel. Here Francis will celebrate Mass and meet priests and religious accompanied by their families and address the issue of Christian vocation and apostolate.

On Sunday, in Cartagena, human dignity and human rights will be the main topic. Francis will bless the first stone of housing for homeless and the Talitha Qum Opera. He will also visit the shrine of Saint Peter Claver. In the afternoon, after celebrating the last mass of his trip, he will leave for Rome, where he will arrive at 12.40 pm on Monday, 11 September.

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