Tuesday, 24 October, 2017

Pope Francis receives unexpected gift from a kind stranger

Pope Francis, in Colombia, travels to former war zone of Villavicencio AFP: Pope prays for victims of Mexico quake, Hurricane Irma
Howard Terry | 10 September, 2017, 08:08

Large agricultural holdings of more than 500 hectares represent around 0.4 percent of all farms in Colombia but control more than 67 percent of the productive land, according to an Oxfam report past year.

Francis was presented with a dove of peace by Emmanuel, a boy born in captivity to Clara Rojas, a politician who spent nearly six years as a hostage of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas.

Christian Aid however was among those who welcomed the peace message.

"Every effort at peace without honest commitment to reconciliation is destined to fail", he warned.

As the country prepares to reintegrate former members of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) back into society, the pontiff is urging reconciliation and forgiveness following decades of bloody civil war.

Looming large over the ceremony in the central city of Villavicencio was a poignant symbol of the conflict: a mutilated statue of Christ rescued from a church that was destroyed in a 2002 rebel mortar attack in the impoverished town of Bojaya.

"They are very short, they are organized along different themes" he explained and he recalled the encounter on Thursday evening with a group of disabled children with whom the Pope engaged telling them that "we are all vulnerable" and commenting later: "that was pure theology".

The search for peace is always "an open thing", Pope Francis said at the start of his official program at the Plaza de Armas in the heart of Bogota, the capital, where tens of thousands of people gave him an enthusiastic reception.

Pope Francis has beatified two priests killed during Colombia's years of political violence and guerrilla warfare, declaring them martyrs who died out of hatred for the Catholic faith.

"Your repeated expressions about God's infinite mercy move me to plead your forgiveness for any tears or pain that we have caused the people of Colombia", Londono, who goes by the alias Timochenko, said in the letter.

Bishop Jesus Jaramillo was gunned down in 1989 in the eastern city of Arauca by rebels from the National Liberation Army, with whom he clashed over theological grounds.

Pope Francis's call to Colombians to overcome what he called the "understandable" temptation of vengeance, is key to the divided country's reconstruction, as is the inclusion of many groups of victims of the conflict in the government's plan for a peaceful future.

The treaty is a "political" response to the situation, and a slight majority of the population rejected it in a referendum in October 2016.

He also encountered opposition from critics such as former president Alvaro Uribe who wrote an open letter denouncing the FARC peace deal and saying the rebels had been given "total impunity" in spite of bad crimes.

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