Pope sends letter to blind Colombian veteran he met

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy of the Colombian Navy

By Manuel Rueda

Colombia (CNS) — Pope Francis sent a handwritten letter to a Colombian soldier
who lost his sight during the country’s civil war.

pope met Edwin Restrepo, a retired marine, during his September visit to
Colombia. On Nov. 9, Restrepo received the letter, in which the pope thanked him
for his sacrifice during Colombia’s armed conflict. The pope also told the
veteran he was still holding on to his “touching” gift.

Pope Francis visited a Colombian airbase in September, he greeted soldiers and
police officers maimed during the war. When the pope walked by Restrepo and
shook his hand, the marine bent his head forward, asked for the pope’s blessing
and asked him to take his military cap. Their conversation lasted only a minute.

gave me a rosary,” Restrepo recalled. “So I told him I wanted to give
him something that represents our military forces, and there was nothing better
I could think of than my cap.”

his letter, Pope Francis said he held on to the cap during his trip to Colombia
because it reminded him of the “sacrifice” and “patriotism”
of Colombian soldiers who have fought in the country’s recently finished war
with Marxist guerrillas. The pope told Restrepo that he now keeps the hat above
an altar in his small office in Rome. He provided a picture of the hat and the

often pray there,” the pope said in his letter. “And every time I do,
I pray for you, and for your fallen and injured colleagues.”

lost his left leg, part of his right hand and his sight in 2004, when he
stepped on a land mine during a patrol in rural Colombia. He was only 19 at the
time and was completing compulsory military service.

former marine said he was taken aback with the pope’s gesture, especially because
he never told the pontiff his name. Pope Francis was able to track Restrepo
down though with the help of Colombian church officials.

never expected this,” Restrepo told Catholic News Service. “I think
it is one of the most beautiful gestures that I’ve experienced.”

said he will frame the letter and place it in his small studio, along with the
rosary that the pope gave him. Though he lost his sight, Restrepo now reads in Braille
and is completing a law degree.

want to keep helping the members of our military,” he said. “There
are many who haven’t received proper pensions, and I want to litigate on their

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