When Pope Francis addressed the Colombian people during a prayer meeting in Villavicencio, he told them that with the help of Christ alive in the midst of the community, it is possible to conquer hatred and death. He told them it was possible to begin again and usher in a new Colombia, despite more than 50 years of civil war.
Pope Francis said he had no magic words or special recipes for Colombians seeking peace, but rather he wanted to listen to them, learn from them and travel a bit of the road with them.
Pope Francis renewed his plea for Venezuela while in nearby Colombia, asking for a peaceful solution for the “grave crisis” the country is experiencing.
Through a television screen setup in the rectory of St. Mary Gate of Heaven in Ozone Park, Colombian parishioners witnessed the second day of their beloved home country welcoming Pope Francis with open arms, setting the stage for talks on reconciliation and peace during his visit to Villavicencio, Sept. 8.
In a city many think of as being synonymous with new directions for the Catholic Church, Pope Francis told Colombian Catholics faith is not measured by how well they follow rules, but by the depth of their prayer life and the degree to which they share the Gospel.
If just one victim of Colombia’s civil war forgives his or her aggressor, it can set off a chain reaction of hope for reconciliation and peace, Pope Francis said.
“Your birth, O Virgin Mother of God, is the new dawn that proclaims joy to the whole world, for from you has been born the sun of justice, Christ our God” (cf. Antiphon for the Benedictus). The feast of the birth of Mary shines its light over us, just as the gentle light of dawn radiates above the vast Colombian plain, this beautiful landscape whose gateway is Villavicencio, and shines its light too upon the rich diversity of its indigenous peoples.
In a country and a continent often infamous for chauvinistic attitudes towards women, Pope Francis called Colombians on it Friday, insisting that the Gospel story itself is a commentary on a world in which “psychological, verbal and physical violence towards women is so evident.”
After celebrating a Mass for a crowd estimated by the local mayor at 1.3 million, Pope Francis met with five bishops from Venezuela on Thursday. The encounter lasted just 10 minutes, but participants said it was enough to update the pontiff about the country’s worsening situation.
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.