Departing on 6th September and until the 10th, Pope Francis will be a pilgrim of peace and reconciliation in Colombia. As usual, last night Pope Francis went to the basilica of Saint Mary Major to bring a floral tribute to the venerated icon of Mary Salus Populi Romani and invoke Her intercession for his imminent pilgrimage.
“Let us take the first step” is the theme of this apostolic journey because other first steps are required after the signing of the peace agreement. The Government of Colombia and Farc signed a new peace agreement in Cuba last November which took account of some requests from the Front after the first agreement reached in August after 52 years of war was rejected in a referendum held on 2nd October last.
In the cities the Pope will visit – Bogota, Villavicencio, Medellin and Cartagena – he will address several issues: to be the artisans of peace, promoters of life; reconciliation with God, with the Colombians, with nature; Christian life as Discipleship; human dignity and human rights.
On Friday in Villavicencio, South of Bogota, the Pope will beatify two Colombian martyrs: the Bishop of Arauca, Mons. Jesús Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve and a priest, Pedro María Ramírez Ramos.
Monsignor Jesús Emilio Jaramillo was killed on 2nd October 1989 at the age of 73, while he was returning from a pastoral visit to the town of Fortul. His car was stopped by three armed guerillas belonging to the Domingo Laín Front of the National Liberation Army (ELN) who kidnapped the Bishop; his body was found on the road a day later with several gunshot wounds and without his cross and episcopal ring. Pedro María Ramírez, known as the“ Martyr of Armero” was a rural parish priest, much loved by his parishioners; he was 68 years old when he was beaten to death on 10th April 1948 by a group of Liberal Party supporters in Armero-Tolima because he was considered to be «a fanatical and dangerous conservative».
The Pope will make twelve discourses in which – as highlighted by Cardinal Parolin, who will accompany him – Francis will confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith: “ The Pope’s visit to Colombia is of a purely pastoral nature, like all the Pope’s visits to various Countries and, therefore, has the aim, the intention – let us say – of confirming and encouraging his brothers and sisters in the faith, of vivifying their charity and spurring them on to live Christian Hope. Naturally, the papal visit comes at a key moment in the life of the Country as a peace process has begun after fifty years of conflict and violence and this makes it particularly important.”
Both Pope Paul VI and Saint John Paul II had already visited Colombia in 1968 and 1986 respectively. Today it is a Latin American Pope who is arriving to sustain and encourage the difficult path towards Peace following more than 50 years of war between the Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), after the signing of the peace agreements last November. However. the situation still hangs in the balance.
Pope Francis is visiting Latin America for the fifth time. He was in Brazil in July 2013, Ecuador, Bolivia e Paraguay in July 2015, Cuba in September 2015 and Mexico in January 2016.
As always we will accompany him with our prayers.