Pope to visit Colombia as it emerges from half-century of war


By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis will be visiting
Colombia in mid-September as the Latin American nation works to implement a new
peace deal and rebuild after 52 years of war.

The Vatican announced March 10 that the pope had accepted
the invitation of President Juan Manuel Santos and the Colombian bishops.

The trip, Sept. 6-11, will include visits to the cities
of Bogota, Villavicencio, Medellin and Cartagena. Details of the trip were to
be published at a later date.

Pope Francis will be the third pope to visit the nation
after Blessed Paul VI and St. John Paul II. The previous papal visit there was 31
years ago in 1986.

The bishops’ conference posted on their website the trip
logo: the pope smiling and walking flanked by the white and yellow colors of
the Vatican on one side and an early indigenous symbol on the other. The motto
is “Let us take the first step” (“Demos el primer paso”).

Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, apostolic nuncio to
Colombia, said: “The pope wants to come to meet the Colombian people; he
comes for those who live in the cities and for those who live in the
countryside and have a different culture and needs; for the rich and for the
poor; for the youth and for the elderly.”

Archbishop Balestrero also noted that the pope will only
visit Colombia on this trip, he said in a statement he gave at a news conference and published online on the conference website.

“It is rare that
the pope visits only one country and that he stays there for four days. This
shows the importance that (Pope) Francis attributes to this visit and,
ultimately, to Colombia,” he said.

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