At final Mass in Colombia, pope calls for change of culture

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By David Agren

Colombia (CNS) — Pope Francis capped a five-day trip to Colombia with a call
for culture change in a country attempting to pursue a path of peace and
reconciliation after decades of armed conflict and centuries of social

pope issued his call in Cartagena, on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast, where he remembered
St. Peter Claver and urged the country to follow the example set centuries
earlier by the priest, who tended to slaves arriving on ships by showing kind
gestures and dignity.

are required to generate ‘from below’ a change in culture, so we respond to the
culture of death and violence with the culture of life and encounter,”
Pope Francis said Sept. 10, prior to returning to Rome.

many times have we ‘normalized’ the logic of violence and social exclusion,
without prophetically raising our hands or voices?” Pope Francis asked. “Alongside
St. Peter Claver were thousands of Christians, many of them consecrated, but
only a handful started a countercultural movement of encounter.”

final Mass, celebrated at the docks and full of up-tempo music and worship,
reiterated many of the themes Pope Francis raised throughout his trip to
Colombia: peace, reconciliation and social inclusion, to name but three.

also invoked the motto for his trip, “Let’s take the first step.” The
motto speaks to the collective action needed pull together a country polarized by
class divisions, social inequality and how to implement a recently approved
peace accord. The accord between the government and guerrilla group, the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, is not universally popular,
though the pursuit of peace is.

Pope Francis pleaded with Colombians to play their personal part in achieving
peace and for Catholics to set the example by living their Christian values.

pray to fulfil the theme of this visit: ‘Let us take the first step!’ And may
this first step be in a common direction. To ‘take the first step’ is, above
all, to go out and meet others, with Christ the Lord,” Pope Francis said.

Colombia wants a stable and lasting peace, it must urgently take a step in this
direction, which is that of the common good, of equity, of justice, of respect
for human nature and its demands,” he continued.

if we help to untie the knots of violence will we unravel the complex threads
of disagreements. The Lord is able to untie that which seems impossible to us,
and he has promised to accompany us to the end of time and will bring to
fruition all our efforts.”

his Sept. 6-10 visit, Pope Francis heard the voice of victims and victimizers. At
the Mass in Cartagena, he departed from his prepared remarks to denounce the
illegal drug business, which has spurred violence in the Andean region — where
coca is grown — and beyond.

strongly condemn this scourge which has put an end to so many lives and is
sustained by unscrupulous men,” Pope Francis said. “I’m making a call
so that we explore all ways to end narcotics trafficking. The only thing it has
done is sow death all over the place, truncating so many hopes and destroying
so many families.”

Francis titled his homily, “Dignity of the person and human rights,” and
he listed a litany of indignities harming the country and much of the region:
money laundering and financial speculation, resource exploitation and
destruction of the environment, along with “The overlooked tragedy of

again spoke of the necessity of seeking truth and providing justice for those
wronged in Colombia to reconcile its recent past, which is marred by an armed
conflict leaving 220,000 dead and millions more displaced.

historic wounds necessarily require moments where justice is done, where
victims are given the opportunity to know the truth, where damage is adequately
repaired and clear commitments are made to avoid repeating those crimes,”
he said.

collective process excuses us from the challenge of meeting, clarifying,

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Follow Agren on Twitter: @el_reportero.


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