By Inés San Martín
Special to The Tablet
BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Pope Francis had a packed first full day in Colombia, with a roller-coaster of emotions for locals, more than a million of whom waited the entire day, under the rain, to participate in the first Mass he celebrated here.
Yet perhaps the most memorable moment came as the day was winding down.
Every day of this trip has been organized around a specific theme, and throughout each of them, the pontiff greets various groups of people that are somehow related to it. Thursday, turned around the theme “Builders of Peace, Promoters of Life.”
As announced by the Vatican spokesman ahead of the trip, in various places, Pope Francis will be greeted with groups of people who have either physical or mental disabilities, as well as people with Down Syndrome.
So far, disabled groups have stopped his march as he was getting ready to address civil authorities, held his hand as he was headed towards the site where he said Mass, and received him with a typical cumbia dance when he arrived at the place where he’s sleeping during his Sept. 6-11 trip.
Afterwards, a group of girls with learning disabilities shortly addressed the pope, thanking him for his visit to Colombia, and telling him that they want to be heard. Here, the pope was visibly moved, even with tears in his eyes.
A young woman called Maria in particular moved him, to the point that he asked her to read some of what she’d said twice: “We want a world in which vulnerability is recognized as essential in the human. That far from making us weak, it strengthens us and dignifies us. A place of common encounter that humanizes us,” she said.
“All of this is your message, a world in which vulnerability is considered as the essence of the human person … because we are all vulnerable, all of us!” Pope Francis said.
Within each of us, he continued, our feelings, there are so many things that no longer work, but no one sees them. Other vulnerabilities, the pope said, are more visible.
“And we need for that vulnerability to be respected, caressed, cured to the extent that it’s possible, and for it to be fruitful for others,” he said, insisting once again that “we are all vulnerable!”
Pope Francis then asked Maria who’s the only one who’s not vulnerable, and she answered “God.”
“God is the only one who’s not vulnerable, all of us are, in some of us it’s visible, in others it isn’t. But the essence of humanity is that need of being sustained by God,” he said. “For this reason, no one must be discarded! Is this clear? Because each one of us is a treasure, offered to God, so that God makes it grow according to His own way.”
He closed his short speech by thanking them for their witness, and asking all those gathered there to join him in praying a Hail Mary.
“And please, don’t forget to pray for me, for I am very vulnerable!” he said.