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Pope Continues Colombian Tour in Rain-soaked Medellin

  • VOA News

Pope Francis waves from his popemobile as he arrives to offer a giant outdoor mass in Medellin, Colombia, Sept. 9, 2017.

Pope Francis continued his trip around Colombia Saturday in the city of Medellin, where he held a mass with an expected attendance of as many as one million people.

Francis’s trip to Medellin hit a slight snag Saturday morning as heavy rains forced him to alter his travel arrangements into the city. He originally was scheduled to take a helicopter from the airport to the Mass, but opted instead to drive out of the Andes, which slightly delayed the mass.

The weather didn’t have much of an effect on turnout, though, as crowds gathered along the streets to wave as Francis passed by in his popemobile.

Later Saturday, Francis is scheduled to meet with sick children at a church-backed orphanage before speaking with local Catholic officials and returning to Bogota for the night.

The pope will end his Colombia visit Sunday night after a brief trip to Cartagena, where he will honor St. Peter Claver, a 17th century Jesuit priest.

Prior to his Mass on Saturday, Francis spent most of the trip speaking about the need for Colombians to embrace the peace process following years of civil strife.

On Friday, Francis called for reconciliation in the country and said any efforts to permanently end the country's more than 50-year civil conflict would “fail” without concessions.

During a large open air Mass in the central Colombian city of Villavicencio, the pope said, "Every effort at peace without a sincere commitment to reconciliation is destined to fail."

He also said, "Reconciliation means opening a door to every person who has experienced the tragic reality of conflict."

People wait for the arrival of Pope Francis to celebrate mass at the Enrique Olaya Herrera airport of Medellin, Colombia, Sept. 9, 2017.
People wait for the arrival of Pope Francis to celebrate mass at the Enrique Olaya Herrera airport of Medellin, Colombia, Sept. 9, 2017.

Resist urge for vengeance

Friday's Mass took place on the third day of the pontiff's five-day trip to Colombia, where he has met with victims of the violent civil war and with leaders. He lent his support to the contested peace process, which has seen Colombia’s largest rebel group, the FARC, turned into a legitimate political party.

During Mass, Francis urged Colombians to “overcome the understandable temptation to vengeance” and work to build a lasting peace.

Two Catholic priests killed during the civil war also were beatified in a move that is a step toward sainthood in the Church.

During a speech Thursday, Francis stressed the importance of the peace process. He said his visit was meant to express “appreciation for the efforts made over the decades to end armed violence and find ways of reconciliation."

On the first day of his visit to this heavily Catholic country, Francis met with President Juan Manuel Santos and first lady Maria Clemencia Rodriguez, along with other government and religious leaders, and young people.

Upon meeting with the pope, Santos recalled his country’s turmoil. “For over half a century, we resigned ourselves to violence on our soil, and its ashes – of resentment, pain, of vengeance – are still ardent embers that we must extinguish.”

To ease those tensions and prepare Colombians for a better future, Santos’ administration has promoted training.

"Education is somehow what most helps us build that different country,” Education Minister Yaneth Giha told VOA. “The pope's visit helps us to reinforce the message that we are on the right path."

Francis met privately with Santos. Later, Bogotá Mayor Enrique Peñalosa handed him the keys to the city in a brief, symbolic ceremony.

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