Wednesday, 14 May 2003

Bogota (Fides Service) – At the invitation of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference, a delegation of European and North American Bishops is visiting Colombia (12-19 May) to deliver a Message from Pope John Paul II and also to ‘strengthen one another in the faith’ (Rom 1) in a country which sees peaceful coexistence and human rights continually threatened by terrorism. The delegation is headed by Archbishop Paul J. Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and includes Mons. Josef Sayer, head of Misereor from Germany and Bishops from Austria, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the United States of America.
The programme of the visit was planned in two parts ecclesial and civil. The first part includes visits to the Nuncio Archbishop Beniamino Stea, to representatives of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference, to Bishops of various regions, to NGOs working in the country. In all these places emphasis will be given to testimony of the faith through the celebration of the Eucharist open to the participation of all the faithful.
The civil part comprises meetings with the President Alvaro Uribe Velez and Vice president Francisco Santos Calderon, with UN Michael Fruling representative for human rights in Colombia and with the representative of the UN High Commission for Refugees. There will also be talks with local political leaders and authorities. Also planned, visits to Medellin prison and to very poor areas in Quibdo. On May 17 there will be a special celebration at Bojaya in memory of the victims of the massacre at Bella Vista church a year ago.
The Holy Father’s indications on building a civilisation of love and on the co-responsibility of institutions of the state and the Church to fight injustice, poverty, violence, will be the two guiding themes for the Bishops’ addresses at the different meetings.
Since the 1970s Cor Unum, the Holy Father’s Charity Body, has kept close contact with the Church in Colombia sending continually concrete help to those communities. In 1992 on the occasion of the 500 years of the evangelisation of Latin America, Pope John Paul II asked for a Populorum Progressio Foundation to be established in Bogota, to help more incisively the indigenous people and peasants of Central Southern America. Since 1992 this Foundation, presided by Cor Unum has distributed aid for 15 million dollars. At this time when the Church in Colombia continues to suffer episodes of violence, the presence of this delegation is a manifestation of ecclesial communion and a strong appeal for solidarity from the whole world towards this martyred country, as a “weapon” for taking the path to peace. SL (Fides Service 14/5/2003 EM lines 33 Words: 440)