Pope in Colombia: Reconciliation means opening a door, not legitimising injustices
Francis travelled to Villavicencio for a visit centred on national reconciliation. During his stay, he beatified a bishop and a priest killed "in hatred of the faith". “In communities where we are still weighed down with patriarchal and chauvinistic customs, it is good to note that the Gospel begins by highlighting women who were influential and made history.”
Villavicencio (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis’s visit to Villavicencio, about 75 km southeast of Bogotá, was centred on national reconciliation. For the Holy Father, this is not an abstract word. It is not meant to “legitimize personal and structural injustices”, nor adapt to them. It “means opening a door to every person who has experienced the tragic reality of conflict”, overcoming the “understandable temptation to vengeance”.
During the Mass service (pictured) Francis beatified Jesús Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve, bishop of Arauca, and Pedro María Ramírez Ramos, both martyred "in hatred of the faith".
Later in the day, the venue will see a prayer meeting for National Reconciliation in front of the Cross of Reconciliation before the Holy Father returns to Bogotá.
This morning, at Bogota's CATAM military airport, Francis greeted about 400 veterans, soldiers, and police officers. Songs and dances welcomed him at Villavicencio airport, and a large crowd stood along a road of some ten kilometres that led to the Catama grounds, on the outskirts of the city. There were so many people that the convoy was forced to proceed at snail pace. According to organisers, a huge crowd – almost a million people – filled the site of the open-air Mass.
On the day the Church has devoted to the birth of Mary, “the new dawn that proclaims joy to the whole world,” Francis stressed the role women play compared to “patriarchal and chauvinistic customs” that still exist.
“In the Gospel,” the pontiff said, “we have heard the genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1:1-17), which is not a “simple list of names”, but rather a “living history”, the history of the people that God journeyed with; by making himself one of us, God wanted to announce that the history of the just and of sinners runs through his blood, that our salvation is not a sterile entity found in a laboratory, but rather something concrete, a life that moves forward.”
“The mention of women – though none of those referred to in the genealogy has the category of the great women of the Old Testament – allows us a particular rapprochement: it is they, in the genealogy, who tell us that pagan blood runs through the veins of Jesus, and who recall the stories of scorn and subjugation. In communities where we are still weighed down with patriarchal and chauvinistic customs, it is good to note that the Gospel begins by highlighting women who were influential and made history.”
“The nobility of Joseph’s heart is such that what he learned from the law he made dependent on charity; and today, in this world where psychological, verbal and physical violence towards women is so evident, Joseph is presented as a figure of the respectful and sensitive man. Even though he does not understand the wider picture, he makes a decision favouring Mary’s good name, her dignity and her life. In his hesitation as how best to act, God helped him by enlightening his judgment.
Yes, to truth, goodness and reconciliation
“The people of Colombia are God’s people; here too we can write genealogies full of stories, many of love and light; others of disagreement, insults, even of death… How many of you can tell of exile and grief! How many women, in silence, have persevered alone, and how many good men have tried to put aside spite and resentment, hoping to bring together justice and kindness! How can we best allow the light in? What are the true paths of reconciliation? Like Mary, by saying yes to the whole of history, not just to a part of it. Like Joseph, by putting aside our passions and pride. Like Jesus Christ, by taking hold of that history, assuming it, embracing it. That is who you are, that is who Colombians are, that is where you find your identity. God can do all this if we say yes to truth, to goodness, to reconciliation, if we fill our history of sin, violence and rejection with the light of the Gospel.”
“Reconciliation is not an abstract word; if it were, then it would only bring sterility and greater distance. Reconciliation means opening a door to every person who has experienced the tragic reality of conflict. When victims overcome the understandable temptation to vengeance, they become the most credible protagonists for the process of building peace. What is needed is for some to courageously take the first step in that direction, without waiting for others to do so. We need only one good person to have hope! And each of us can be that person! This does not mean ignoring or hiding differences and conflicts. This is not to legitimize personal and structural injustices.
“Recourse to reconciliation cannot merely serve to accommodate unjust situations. Instead, as Saint John Paul II taught: “[Reconciliation] is rather a meeting between brothers who are disposed to overcome the temptation to egoism and to renounce the attempts of pseudo-justice. It is the fruit of sentiments that are strong, noble and generous that lead to establishing a coexistence based on respect for each individual and on the values that are proper to each civil society” (Letter to the Bishops of El Salvador, 6 August 1982). Reconciliation, therefore, becomes substantive and is consolidated by the contribution of all; it enables us to build the future, and makes hope grow. Every effort at peace without a sincere commitment to reconciliation is destined to fail.
Two martyrs beatified
Pope Francis also beatified two clergymen. Mgr Jesús Emilio Jaramillo, of the Institute for the Foreign Missions in Yarumal, was born on 14 February 1916, and killed on 2 October 1989 by a group of guerrillas from Domingo Laín's National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN). His body, showing numerous wounds, indicates that he was put on “trial”, tortured, and killed "as a member of the most reactionary sector of the Colombian Church hierarchy," an ELN statement said.
Father Pedro María Ramírez, known as the "martyr of Armero," was 68 years old in 1948 when he was lynched by a large group of liberal supporters in Armero-Tolima because he was considered a "fanatical and dangerous conservative". Thirty-seven years after his death, he was also accused of causing the mudslide that killed more than 20,000 people in November 1985 because he supposedly cursed the town shortly before dying.
At the end of the service, Francis met in the sacristy with a small delegation of victims of a disastrous mudflow that hit the city of Mocoa this year and offered them some economic help.