In his first meeting in the South American country, Francis calls for the inclusion of all citizens, especially the weak, as well as the protection of the family, life and nature. “Just laws are needed” to “help overcome the conflicts that have torn apart this nation for decades; laws are required which are not born from the pragmatic need to order society but rather arise from the desire to resolve the structural causes of poverty that lead to exclusion and violence.”
Bogotá (AsiaNews) – In his first address today, Pope Francis spoke before Colombia’s political and religious authorities as well as the diplomatic corps, business leaders and representatives of civil society and culture (pictured).
The Holy Father focused on national reconciliation based on the rule of law and not on the law of the mightiest, a situation that entails the inclusion especially of the weak, as well as protection of the family, life and nature.
Francis arrived at the Casa de Nariño, the presidential palace, at 9 am (2 pm GMT), with a cavalry escort. Welcomed by the President of Colombia, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, and his wife, María Clemencia Rodríguez Múnera, wearing an unusual white dress, the Holy Father was accompanied to the palace’s Plaza de Armas, to a gathering of some 700 people.
Choirs, a large group of children, and the lighting of a dove-shaped torch preceded the greetings of the president, who thanked the pope for the visit and spoke about peace, reconciliation and forgiveness in a unique country that wants to be a "monument to peace".
“This meeting,” the pope said, “allows me to express my appreciation for all the efforts undertaken over the last decades to end armed violence and to seek out paths of reconciliation. Over the past year significant progress has been made; the steps taken give rise to hope, in the conviction that seeking peace is an open-ended endeavour, a task which does not relent, which demands the commitment of everyone. It is an endeavour challenging us not to weaken our efforts to build the unity of the nation. Despite obstacles, differences and varying perspectives on the way to achieve peaceful coexistence, this task summons us to persevere in the struggle to promote a “culture of encounter”. This requires us to place at the centre of all political, social and economic activity the human person, who enjoys the highest dignity, and respect for the common good. May this determination help us flee from the temptation to vengeance and the satisfaction of short-term partisan interests.”
“The motto of this country is: ‘Freedom and Order’. These two words contain a complete lesson. Citizens must be valued according to their freedom and be protected by a stable order. It is not the law of the most powerful, but rather the power of the law, approved by all, that regulates a peaceful coexistence. Just laws are needed, which can ensure harmony and which can help overcome the conflicts that have torn apart this nation for decades; laws are required which are not born from the pragmatic need to order society but rather arise from the desire to resolve the structural causes of poverty that lead to exclusion and violence. Only in this way can there be healing of the sickness that brings fragility and lack of dignity to society, leaving it always vulnerable to new crises. Let us not forget that inequality is the root of social ills (cf. ibid. 202).”
“In this perspective, I encourage you to look to all those who today are excluded and marginalised by society, those who have no value in the eyes of the majority, who are held back, cast aside. Everyone is needed in the work of creating and shaping society. “
This applies to everyone. “Then and now, we observe the variety of ethnic groups and the inhabitants of the remotest regions, the campesinos. Our gaze fixes upon the weakest, the oppressed and maltreated, those who have no voice, either because it has been taken from them, or was never given to them, or because they are ignored. Let us stop to recognize women, their contribution, their talent, their being “mothers” in their great number of tasks. Colombia needs the participation of all so as to face the future with hope.
“The Church, faithful to her mission, is committed to peace, justice and the good of all. She is conscious that the principles of the Gospel are a significant dimension of the social fabric of Colombia, and thus can contribute greatly to the growth of the country; particularly, sacrosanct respect for human life, above all for the weakest and most defenceless, is a cornerstone in the formation of a society free from violence. We cannot fail, moreover, to emphasize the social importance of the family, envisioned by God to be the fruit of spousal love, that place “where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another” (ibid. 66). I ask you, please, to listen to the poor, to those who suffer. Look them in the eye and let yourselves be continually questioned by their faces racked with pain and by their pleading hands. From them we learn true lessons about life, humanity and dignity. For they, who cry out from their shackles, really understand the words of the one who died on the cross, as expressed by the words of your national anthem.”
The Pope, who urged care for the country's natural beauty, ended his speech citing Gabriel García Marquez. “In spite of this, before oppression, plundering and abandonment, we respond with life. Neither floods nor plagues, famines nor cataclysms, nor even the unending wars down the centuries, have been able to subdue the tenacious advantage of life over death. An advantage which is both increasing and accelerating”. What is thus made possible, continues the author, is ‘a new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness made possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will, at last and forever, have a second opportunity on earth’ (Gabriel García Márquez, Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, 1982).”