Bogota (Agenzia Fides) - "Let us take the first step" was the motto of the apostolic visit carried out by Pope Francis in Colombia, just concluded, in support of the ongoing reconciliation process in a country marked by war for over 50 years and highlighted this issue several times. "Reconciliation is not an abstract word. Reconciliation means opening a door to every person who has experienced the tragic reality of conflict", the Pope emphasized during the Mass presided on September 8 in Villavicencio. "When victims overcome the understandable temptation to vengeance, they become the most credible protagonists for the process of building peace. What is needed is for some to courageously take the first step in that direction, without waiting for others to do so. We need only one good person to have hope! And each of us can be this person!"
However, to reconcile "does not mean ignoring or hiding differences and conflicts. This is not to legitimize personal and structural injustices. Recourse to reconciliation cannot merely serve to accommodate unjust situations", the Pope pointed out, specifying that "every effort at peace without a sincere commitment to reconciliation is destined to fail". During the Mass, the Pope beatified Colombians Monsignor Jesús Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve, Bishop of Arauca, and the martyred priest of Armero, Pedro María Ramírez Ramos, defining them as "an expression of a people who wish to rise up out of the swamp of violence and bitterness".
In the great "Meeting for National Reconciliation", always in Villavicencio, on the same day, with representatives of the victims of violence, military and police officers, former guerrillas, gathered at the feet of the Crucifix of Bojayá, which "witnessed and endured the massacre of more than a hundred people, who had come to the Church" for refuge on 2 May 2002", the Pope emphasized: "This image has a powerful symbolic and spiritual value. As we look at it, we remember not only what happened on that day, but also the immense suffering, the many deaths and broken lives, and all the blood spilt in Colombia these past decades. To see Christ this way, mutilated and wounded, questions us... He teaches us to transform pain into a source of life and resurrection, so that, with him, we may learn the power of forgiveness, the grandeur of love".
Referring to the testimonies shared shortly before, "stories of suffering and anguish, but also, and above all, they are stories of love and forgiveness that speak to us of life and hope", Pope Francis urged Colombians: "do not be afraid of asking for forgiveness and offering it. Do not resist that reconciliation which allows you to draw near and encounter one another as brothers and sisters, and surmount enmity. Now is the time to heal wounds, to build bridges, to overcome differences. It is time to defuse hatred, to renounce vengeance, and to open yourselves to a coexistence founded on justice, truth, and the creation of a genuine culture of fraternal encounter".
An invitation to "go to what is essential, to be renewed, and to get involved", was launched by the Pope during Mass at "Enrique Olaya Herrera" Airport in Medellín on 9 September. Going to what is essential means to "go deep, to what matters and has value for life. Jesus teaches that being in relationship with God cannot be a cold attachment to norms and laws, nor the observance of some outward actions that do not lead to a real change of life". Therefore he encouraged not to fear renewal, as "the Church always needs renewal" to respond better to the Lord’s call. "And in Colombia there are many situations where disciples must embrace Jesus’ way of life, particularly love transformed into acts of non-violence, reconciliation and peace". "Today we are called upon to be brave, to have that evangelical courage which springs from knowing that there are many who are hungry, who hunger for God - how many there are who hunger for God – who hunger for dignity, because they have been deprived" and Jesus asks us, as he did with his disciples, to "eat the bread of God, to eat the love of God, to eat the bread which helps us to stay alive". Finally, he appealed to the Church in Colombia, called "to commit itself, with greater boldness, to forming missionary disciples. Missionary disciples that know how to see, without hereditary short-sightedness; looking at reality with the eyes and heart of Jesus, and only then judging. Disciples who risk, who act, and who commit themselves".
The last great Eucharistic celebration was presided over by the Pope on Sunday, September 10, at Port of Contecar (Cartagena de Indias). As he recalled in the homily, for the past thirty-two years Cartagena de Indias is also the headquarters in Colombia for Human Rights, for here the people cherish the fact that, "thanks to the missionary team formed by the Jesuit priests Peter Claver y Corberó, Alonso de Sandoval and Brother Nicolás González, accompanied by many citizens of the city of Cartagena de Indias in the seventeenth century, the desire was born to alleviate the situation of the oppressed of that time, especially of slaves, of those who implored fair treatment and freedom".
Inspired by the Word of God of the liturgy of the day, the Pope recalled: "During these past few days I have heard many testimonies from those who have reached out to people who had harmed them; terrible wounds that I could see in their own bodies; irreparable losses that still bring tears. Yet they have reached out, have taken a first step on a different path to the one already travelled".
Peace is not achieved by normative frameworks and institutional arrangements between well-intentioned political or economic groups. Jesus tells us that this path of reintegration into the community begins with a dialogue of two persons. "No collective process excuses us from the challenge of meeting, clarifying, forgiving", highlighted the Pope -. Deep 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. But that is only the beginning of the Christian response. We Christians are required to generate “from below”, to generate a change in culture: to respond to the culture of death and violence with the culture of life and encounter... In the encounter between us we rediscover our rights, and we recreate our lives so that they re-emerge as authentically human". (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 11/9/2017)