Pope preaches forgiveness in former Colombia war zone


Pope Francis traveled Friday to an area once besieged by leftist rebels to pray with victims of Colombia’s long conflict, urging them to overcome their grief by forgiving their former assailants.

At an open-air Mass in the central city of Villavincencio, Francis praised those who had resisted “the understandable temptation for vengeance” and instead sought out peace. He said their choice in no way legitimized the injustices they suffered, but rather showed a willingness to build a peaceful future together.

“Every effort at peace without sincere commitment to reconciliation is destined to fail,” he warned.

The highlight of his daylong visit was to be what the Vatican has termed a “great prayer meeting for national reconciliation,” bringing victims and victimizers together before a poignant symbol of the conflict: a mutilated statue of Christ rescued from a church destroyed in a rebel mortar attack.

It was bound to be a deeply emotional gathering for Francis, who has made reconciliation the central theme of his five-day trip Colombia after promising to visit the country upon the signing of last year’s peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

The event was drawing thousands of victims from all walks of life: soldiers who lost limbs clearing land mines, mothers whose children were forcibly recruited by the rebels never to be seen again and farmers driven off their land by right-wing paramilitary groups.

While still grieving, many said they had already worked through their sorrow to forgive.

“When you forgive, you still have the scar of the wound, but yes, I have definitely forgiven from my heart,” said Paulina Mahecha, whose daughter disappeared in 2004 while studying to be a nurse. 

Mahecha arrived at the event bearing photos of her daughter, Marina Christina Cobo Mahecha, around her neck and a banner accusing the army, police and paramilitary groups in her disappearance.

She said she had moved beyond her grief with the help of a priest: “Otherwise I would be dead. Forgiveness was not for them, but for me,” she said.

Ahead of the event, the former commander of the FARC published a public letter in which he asked Francis for forgiveness.

“Your frequent reminders about the infinite mercy of God move me to beg for your forgiveness for any tear or pain we’ve caused Colombian society or any of its individuals,” wrote Rodrigo Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko.

The longtime rebel commander, who is undergoing medical treatment in Cuba following a stroke, said he regretted that he was unable to be present for Francis’ visit. Declaring himself a “devout admirer” of the first Latin American pope, he praised Francis’ insistence on the dignity of every human being and outspoken criticism of an economic system in which rich nations loot the riches of poorer ones.


AP

No comments

Please drop your comments below:

Copyright 2017-NaijaPeople.com. Powered by Blogger.