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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Homily shared during the signing of a Columbian agreement

Today, the Vatican Press Centre published the text of a homily pronounced yesterday by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, who is in Cartagena (Columbia) for the signing of the Final Agreement between the government of Columbia and the FARC-EP.

Homily of His Eminence, Pietro Parolin
for a Liturgy of the Word which took place in
Cartagena (Columbia)

Mister President of the Republic of Columbia, Doctor Juan Manuel Santos Carderoón
Heads of State and of Government,
Your Majesty, King Juan Carlos,
Ministers and Heads of Delegations here present,
Distinct Columbian Authorities and leaders from other countries,
Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

First, I want to communicate the closeness of Pope Francis to the beloved Columbian people and to her Authorities, especially in the present circumstances as the Final Accord between the Government of Columbia and the FARC-EP is signed.  The Holy Father has followed the efforts put forward during these past years to promote agreement and reconciliation with great attention.  Several times, he has encouraged these efforts, without taking part in the concrete solutions which were negotiated, and the decisions that were made, in freedom of conscience by the citizens themselves.  The Pope has always promoted respect for human rights and for Christian values, which are at the heart of the Columbian culture.

I believe that all of us who are here are aware that, basically, we are at the conclusion of one negotiation, but we are also at the beginning of a process, which is still open, a process of change which requires the support and respect of all Columbians.

We are here for this Liturgy of the Word surrounded by the beautiful scenery of Cartagena delle Indie, whose evolution over time represents, in a certain sense, the history of this country.  More than 350 years ago, in the old port of Cartagena, Saint Peter Claver spent his life with admirable dedication and extraordinary charity toward slaves who were arriving from Africa.

We can say that, as it was centuries ago for slaves and merchants who entered the port sick and malnourished, today, many Columbians have been uprooted and are pained as they travel: their dignity has been wounded or torn away.  They faced storms and dark black clouds, without losing hope.  They still have a need to be redeemed and loved, a thirst for fresh water.

The remains of Saint Peter Claver lie just below the altar of this church, close to his convent.  For more than forty years, he was able to enhance the dignity of many human beings who otherwise were treated as a commodity, subject to every kind of atrocity, captured and deported from their homelands to work as slaves.  Always seeking to meet these victims of injustice with charity, he honoured their dignity and gave them hope.

In the same way, even today, Jesus is waiting to free us from the chains of slavery, both our own slavery and the slavery imposed upon us by others. He is eager to embrace us, to tend to our wounds, to wipe away our tears, to give us something to eat and to drink: the bread and water of life, to look lovingly into the depth of the soul, to lift us into his arms and to bring us to safety ... We know that the suffering of victims, offered at the foot of the cross, transforms us into reservoirs of his mercy.

In the letter that I sent you, expressing the desire of the Pope to visit these lands, I said that it is necessary that we take the risk of transforming with the entire Church, every parish and every institution into a field hospital, a place of safety where we can find those who have suffered atrocities and those who have acted on the side of violence.  Evidently, it is from these encounters that Columbia must ease the pain of so many of its inhabitants who have been humiliated and oppressed by violence, the hatred must stop in order to change the direction of this country's history, to build a better future with just and solidly rooted institutions.

The surest way to begin a better future is to rebuild the dignity of those who suffer and to do whatever is necessary to draw close to them without delay, even to the point of identifying ourselves with them.  In other words, the peace that Columbia yearns for goes beyond the mere necessity for the improvement of certain facilities and arrangements, and finds its focus in the reconstruction of the person: in fact, the profound causes of conflict which in recent years has wounded this country are found in the wounds of the heart.

God alone gives us the strength to confront these problems and, above all, it is He who gives us the ability to identify ourselves with all those who suffer because of these problems.  Therefore, in this country, rooted in Catholicism, today we are united in prayer.  We do not consider this meeting as one among many, but rather as a manifestation of confidence placed in the Authorities and in all those who follow us in the strength of prayer offered to God.  This liturgy is an invocation offered to the Lord, who can grant that which is normally impossible through merely human efforts: light for the journey and for the decisions that Columbians must freely undertake, the fervour of respect, listening and serene dialogue that must accompany these decisions.

Our prayer also bears witness, perhaps almost unconsciously, to the words that Saint John Paul II wrote when he was on pilgrimage in Columbia: In the light of faith, solidarity seeks to go beyond itself, to take on the specifically Christian dimensions of total gratitude, forgiveness and reconciliation (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 40).  For this reason, we ask God to grant us courage in the solidarity that is required to overcome, in truth and in justice, the abyss of evil that is produced by violence.  And I want to thank you also for having supported Columbians in the midst of situations of hatred and suffering, and for having opened their hearts, for many years, to the firm hope that violence and conflict are avoidable: that they can build a different future, in which everyone can live together without slaughtering one another and in which it will be possible to maintain various convictions, within the framework of respect for democratic rules, for human dignity and for Christian traditions in this great nation.

With the historical perspective that offers us the figure of Saint Peter Claver and his time, Columbia has experienced in her own flesh, that - through our scourges - the ambitions of money and of power are the causes of suffering for many who are exploited by others, who are forcibly deported, who suffer violence and who suffer because of disregard for the dignity of victims who are deprived of their human rights.  In this context, we pray to God for the future of this beloved people, that they may journey along the paths of truth, justice and peace according to the words of the Psalmist which we have just heard:

Today, we also want to make the words of the Evangelist Matthew our own (cf Mt 5:3-11):
Blessed are Columbians who are poor in spirit, the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs;
Blessed are Columbians who are meek, they will have the earth for their heritage;
Blessed are Columbians who mourn, they will be consoled;
Blessed are Columbians who are hungry and thirsty for justice, they will be satisfied;
Blessed are Columbians who are merciful, they will find mercy;
Blessed are Columbians who are pure in heart, they will see God;
Blessed are Columbians who work for peace, they will be called children of God;
Blessed are Columbians who are persecuted in the cause of justice, theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed will be all Columbians when others insult you, persecute you and falsely utter all kinds of evil against you for my sake.

Religions lead us to listen, to understand and to recognize the reasons for and the value of others.  Faith is opposed to offences against the dignity of persons, that result in the tearing of the fabric of society, and it is not contrary to secularism, understood as respecting the various spheres of competence of different civil and spiritual realities.

In fact, secularism needs faith, as a necessary point of reference for both coexistence and respect.  The Catholic Church in particular, promotes peaceful social coexistence, in accord with the spiritual traditions of Columbia, without demanding that all should profess a common religion and providing points of reference so that individual people and the community can find and share light in their search for the common good.

Let us implore the prayer of Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá, the Queen of Columbia, that she may protect and intercede for this to be the case.
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