Let’s say it right away: the apostolic journey of Pope Francis to Colombia (September 6-11, 2017) was really and truly a “manifesto” not only in words but also in actions and gestures. It showed that a different world is possible and indicated to the Church its own role of service as salt of the earth. The motto of the journey was Demos el primer paso, that is, “Let’s take the first step,” a quotation from Evangelii Gaudium (EG) n. 24.
It is not often that the pope when traveling in one country makes reference to circumstances that concern another one. In the case of Colombia this happened, further proof of the long gestation of a deeply longed-for trip. In fact, after Mass and before the Angelus on Sunday, September 20, 2015, in Revolution Square of Havana, Cuba, Pope Francis unexpectedly said: “At this time I feel the duty of turning my thoughts to the beloved land of Colombia, aware of the crucial importance of the present moment, in which, with renewed force and moved by hope, its children are trying to build a peaceful society.” And he concluded: “Please, we cannot permit ourselves another failure on the path of peace and reconciliation.”
Recently, the right conditions were created for the third journey of a pontiff to Colombia. We remember that the first journey was that of Blessed Paul VI (August 22-25, 1968), and the second that of St. John Paul II (July 1-8, 1986). Francis knows Colombia and has visited on more than one occasion, both when he was leading the archdiocese of Buenos Aires and earlier as provincial of the Jesuits. Now he decided to visit it “as brother and father,” and pontiff.
Many times this journal has written about Colombia, with its internal tensions and during the various phases of a long peace process that is still underway. It did so also in preparation for Francis’ journey. We leave the description of the context to our earlier writings. Here, we wish to recall the stages of the trip and then we will offer a reflection on its profound significance.
Three new tesserae for the mosaic
First of all, we must add three new tesserae to the mosaic already constructed within our pages. The first is the news that reached us as the pope began his trip: the bilateral ceasefire of 102 days between the government and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), agreed in Quito, Ecuador. It was stated that the truce would be renewed from time to time as the negotiations advance. But the hope is that they reach an agreement. During his return flight, the pope thanked the ELN for this step.
The second tessera is an open letter to the pope, soon after his arrival in the land of Colombia, in which the leader of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), Timoshenko (Timoleón Jiménez), writes: “Your repeated explanations of the infinite mercy of God push me to ask your forgiveness for any tears or pain we have caused the people of Colombia or any of its members.” The leader of the FARC affirmed among other things: “We have put aside every manifestation of hate and violence; we are urged on by the intention of pardoning those who were our enemies and have done so much harm to our people; we perform the act of contrition indispensable for recognizing our errors and asking forgiveness of all those men and women who in any way were victims of our actions.” And he added: “From your first step in my country I have felt that finally something could change.”
The third is that, as was announced by President Santos, “the ‘del Golfo’ cartel has manifested its willingness to submit to Colombian justice,” with the desire expressed by its boss and members to turn themselves in to the forces of law and order. The cartel is one of the principal cartels of drug traffickers with branches in Mexico and the United States. In this case it is not a political negotiation, and it will be necessary to devise a legal procedure for the collective surrender of a criminal organization, something that has never happened before and for which the country does not have legislation.
Four stages: Bogotá, Villavicencio, Medellín, Cartagena
Bogotá. The plane with the pope, his entourage and authorized journalists aboard, took off at 11 a.m. on September 6. Greeting the journalists, the pope said: “[This] is also a trip to help Colombia move forward on the path to peace.” He immediately added: “Moreover, I would like to say that on the flight we will pass over Venezuela. And therefore a prayer also for Venezuela, so that dialogue can be had there, and the country find a beautiful stability, through dialogue with all.”
With a few phrases the pope gave a key to interpret the entire trip, but he also extended his gaze from Colombia to nearby Venezuela and its drama. He did with this country what he had done with Colombia from Cuba. It was a sign of great attentiveness.
The plane landed at 4:30 p.m. at the CATAM military airport, located at the Bogotá airport. After the welcoming ceremony and the greeting of the President of the Republic, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, Francis moved to the apostolic nunciature, traveling about 15 kilometers in the popemobile. Here he was welcomed by a group of people who up until recently were living on the street, among them former drug addicts. They performed songs and traditional dances. The pope encountered the faithful gathered together outside the nunciature every evening during his stay in Colombia. These were always emotional moments in which Francis would greet the faithful spontaneously with brief but very powerful messages.
The pontiff visited four cities: Bogotá, Villavicencio, Medellín and Cartagena de Indias. The four stops were bound by specific motives particular to each place, which are like the principal faces of the Colombian polyhedron, richly diverse and colorful.
The first day of the journey, September 7, was dedicated to the capital, Santa Fe de Bogotá. It is also the seat of the Bishops’ Conference of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAM), which was established at the will of Pius XII after the first general assembly of the bishops of the region in 1955. This is the same institution of ecclesial coordination that then organized the successive general conferences in Medellín (1968), Puebla (1979), Santo Domingo (1992) and Aparecida (2007).
On a day of bright sunshine, the pope went to the Casa de Nariño, the presidential palace named in honor of the forerunner of the independence of the country, Antonio Nariño (1765-1823). Francis was welcomed there both formally and by a group of children who ran out to meet him. The pope and the president then moved to the podium to give their addresses. Next came a private meeting and then they shifted location to the cathedral where Francis symbolically received the keys of the city and paused to pray in silence before the painting of Nuestra Señora de Chiquinquirá.
Then he moved to the cardinal’s palace where he blessed the faithful and held a meeting with the bishops of the country. In the afternoon, after a stop at the nunciature, the pope met the governing committee of CELAM and delivered a wide-ranging speech. Then he moved to Simón Bolívar Park, where he celebrated the votive Mass for peace and justice. The preface chosen for the occasion was that of “the reconciliation with God, foundation of human concord.”
Finally, the pope returned to the nunciature where groups of children, the elderly and the disabled were waiting. He delivered a spontaneous address, concluding with a blessing.
Villavicencio. The second day, September 8, was dedicated to Villavicencio, a city 115 kilometers southeast of the capital. Known as the “heart of eastern Colombia,” it is a true ecological treasure chest. The bishops of the diocese have always maintained within their ecclesial communities a lively sense of social duty with many activities oriented toward sustainable human advancement and development. Villavicencio was deeply involved in the past in the armed conflict within the country: not only that with the FARC, but also the violence that broke out after the assassination of the liberal leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán (1948). President César Gaviria in 2012 chose this city to celebrate the Día Nacional de la Memoria y Solidaridad con las Víctimas (April 9).
The papal airplane landed at the Luis Gómez Niño-Apiay Air Base. From there the pope moved to Terreno di Catama to celebrate the memorial Mass of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. During the celebration, the Servants of God Jesús Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve, bishop of Arauca, and Pedro María Ramírez Ramos, a diocesan priest, were proclaimed blessed. They are two victims of the climate of violence that Colombia has been experiencing for decades. Fr. Ramos was killed when he was 44 years old, April 10, 1948; Bishop Jaramillo was abducted, tortured and executed at the age of 73 by ELN guerrilla fighters, October 2, 1989.
The significance of the beatifications is clear: “Peace is, perhaps above all, founded on the blood of the many witnesses of love, truth and justice, and also of true and proper martyrs, killed for the faith.” Many of the faithful came to the Mass from the regions of Llanos and indigenous villages, as well as victims of the violence. Afterward, the pope moved to the Maloca del Joropo compound, where he had lunch and rested before reaching an adjacent covered structure. About 6,000 were gathered there for the great meeting of national reconciliation. The testimonies that were offered by ex-guerrillas and victims were moving and offered a living image of the ongoing peace process.
From here, the pope moved to the Parque de los Fundadores, the largest park in Villavicencio, where he paid homage to the “Cross of Reconciliation,” which was placed there at the end of a Via Crucis that was carried through the Llanos Orientales in 2012. President Santos, about 400 children and a group of indigenous people were present. The pope was welcomed by some children who accompanied him to the cross that records the number of the victims of the violence that has rocked the country in recent decades. At the end, Francis planted a tree as a symbol of new life. From here he moved to the airport in order to return to the nunciature where groups of victims of violence, soldiers, police and ex-guerrillas awaited him.
Medellín. The third day, September 9, was dedicated to the city of Medellín, well known in the life of the Church in Latin America for the Second General Conference of the Latin American Bishops in 1968, inaugurated by Paul VI in Bogotá. Francis’ presence in Colombia, welcomed by the enormous participation of the people, was immediately associated with the encyclical Populorum Progressio (March 26, 1967). The city of Medellín paid a terrible tribute in blood during the years of the conflict. Among the victims were priests, religious and catechists. In the past, the power of the cocaine cartels imposed its law, generating an unstoppable spiral of violence.
After landing at José M. Córdoba Airport in Rionegro, a transfer by helicopter was planned but did not take place due to bad weather. So the pope reached the city by car, becoming more and more behind schedule, finally by about an hour, and many came out to greet him on the street having learned of the change of schedule.
Having reached the Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport, Francis celebrated the memorial Mass of St. Peter Claver. The image of the patroness of Medellín, the Virgen de la Candelaria, was exposed on the altar. Afterward, the pope went to the seminary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, also known as the Seminario Conciliar de Medellín. Here he ate lunch and rested before going to the Hogar de San José, a home managed by the archdiocese of Medellín for child victims of violence and abandonment who receive an education and medical and psychological assistance to overcome the traumas they have suffered.
Then Francis went to the Events Center La Macarena, where he met 12,000 people including priests, religious, the consecrated, seminarians and their families. The pope’s speech was preceded by songs and testimonies. Then Francis went by helicopter to the airport at Rionegro and on to the nunciature, where the consecrated, newlyweds and couples celebrating golden and silver wedding anniversaries were waiting for him.
Cartagena. The fourth and final day of the stay in Colombia, September 10, was dedicated to Cartagena. The city was founded in 1533 and is a jewel of UNESCO. It had been a strategic hub of Spanish colonialism, and it was there that the Africans captured for sale as slaves in the New World were brought. The figure of the Jesuit missionary St. Peter Claver, the apostle of the slaves (1581-1654), is forever tied up with the city.
The son of a peasant from Catalonia, Peter graduated from the University of Barcelona and at the age of 20 entered the Society of Jesus. While he was studying in Majorca, the porter encouraged him to depart to evangelize the Spanish territories in America. In fact, in 1610 Peter disembarked in Cartagena, where for 44 years he was a missionary among the African slaves, defining himself Aethiopum semper servus, that is, “slave of the Africans forever.”
Whenever word came that new slaves had arrived, Claver put out to sea in his boat to meet them, bringing them food and comfort. While they were prisoners in Cartagena, waiting to be bought, Claver instructed and baptized them.
In the square, right in front of the church that houses the relics of St. Peter Claver, on September 26, 2016, in the presence of the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the first peace agreement between President Santos and the leader of the FARC group of guerrilla fighters was signed.
After landing at the Rafael Núñez Airport, Francis went to the St. Francis of Assisi Square. Here, using the popemobile, he greeted the crowd. Along the way, there was an accident in which the pope banged his head against the window of the popemobile. Having immediately received first aid, he decided to proceed as planned to the church and the monastery of St. Peter Claver, which belong to the Society of Jesus.
Welcomed by the provincial of the Jesuits, the pope stepped immediately onto the podium outside the church for the Angelus. Then he made his entrance into the sanctuary, where he was warmly welcomed by about 300 members of the Afro-Caribbean community. He stopped in silent prayer before the relics of Claver. At the end, he went to the internal courtyard where he met privately with a delegation of 65 Jesuits. Finally, he went to the monastery of St. Dominic where he ate lunch with his entourage. From here went to the archbishop’s house in Cartagena.
The final stage of the apostolic journey was the Mass celebrated in the port of Cartagena, one of the biggest industrial zones of the country, with commercial transport, sorting, and international and intercontinental embarkations. Cartagena is among the 30 most important port cities in the world and a primary reference point in the maritime traffic of the Caribbean.
The pope’s farewell ceremony took place at Rafael Núñez Airport in Cartagena, where an airplane of the Colombian national airline, Avianca, awaited him. It carried the Holy Father, his entourage and the journalists back to the airport of Ciampino in Rome.
Francis had flown, therefore, 19,650 kilometers of intercontinental flight and traveled another 1,528 kilometers within Colombia.
“We are victims, innocent or guilty, but all victims”
With the peace accords signed by the ex-guerrillas of FARC last October, Colombia does not merely wish to bring to an end the years of political and ideological violence which marked the conflict with the armed Marxist-Leninist groups that date back to the early 1960s. It also wishes to close a page on the many instances of clashes from an earlier period (1948-1958), the decade called La Violencia, in the course of which the conservative and liberal parties faced each other in armed conflict. Today, after having handed over its arms to the United Nations, the acronym FARC remains, but it now means something else: from Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, it has become Furze Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común. And today the “enemy” is only the legitimate “political adversary.”
In meeting the authorities and representatives of civic society, Francis expressed his awareness of “visiting this nation in a particular moment of its history,” as he also expressed his “appreciation for the efforts taken” to construct bridges and the “culture of encounter.” Therefore, the message of Francis was a message of peace. But “peace” does not mean ideological pacifism, the simple desire for social order, or the easy covering up of the injustices perpetrated and suffered. This would be a pseudo-justice, as the pope clarified in his homily at Mass in Villavicencio. On the contrary, peace is born from “the desire to resolve the structural causes of poverty that lead to exclusion and violence. Only in this way can there be healing of the sickness that brings fragility and lack of dignity to society, leaving it always vulnerable to new crises. Let us not forget that inequality is the root of social ills.”
For Francis, peace is not an objective to be accomplished, but just the first step, the necessary condition of development and the overcoming of injustices (EG 202). The protection and guarantee of many other inalienable rights overflow from the supreme common good of peace: for example, life, food, justice and the freedom of religious worship and belief. Without peace, none of these rights would be possible.
Francis took the theme up again in his speech to the authorities: “I encourage you to look to all those today who are excluded and marginalized by society, those who have no value in the eyes of the majority, who are held back, cast aside. Everyone is needed in the work of creating and shaping society.”
Colombia has always been a polarized country that requires reconciliation: it has an open wound that begs to be healed. Its soil has been soaked in blood, and there have been about 8 million victims in various ways (deaths, injuries, missing persons, people who have lost their homes…) during the 50 years of conflict. For this reason, the pope was faithful to a clear principle that he expressed in his homily in Cartagena: peace is a process of the harmonizing of politics and rights that must involve the people; it cannot be a design of institutional rules among political and economic groups; the devastation has been too deep for agreements between the leaders alone.
On the return trip to Rome, responding to a question of the Argentine journalist Hernán Reyes, Francis emphasized: “A peace process will go ahead only when the people take it in their hands. If the people do not take it in hand, it may go ahead for a bit, it may arrive at a compromise. […] Either the protagonist of the peace process is the people, or it will only go ahead to a certain point. But when the people take the thing in hand, they are capable of really making it happen.”
The historical subject of the peace process, its true author, for Francis, is the people, not a class, a faction, a group, an elite. A project of a few geared to a few, or of an enlightened or witnessing minority that appropriates to itself a collective sentiment is not sufficient. It is in fact an agreement to live together, a social and cultural pact (EG 239). And if it is a popular process, it is inclusive, it aims at integration. Saluting the Colombian people from the balcony of the cardinal’s palace in Bogotá, the pope insisted: “The Lord is not selective, he does not exclude anyone, the Lord embraces everyone.” There is no reconciliation without integration.
The words of the pope were warm, suffused with encouragement and emotion: “Do not fear the future! Be bold enough to dream big! To this big dream I invite you today. Please, do not lose yourselves in trifles, do not fly along the ground, fly high and dream big!” he kept saying in his goodbye to the people.
The pontiff spoke above all to the young, who are by nature “restless” and capable of looking to the future. To construct a nation you must embrace their desire for life and to dream, for volunteering and to be activists. Only the young who are not “nauseated” and “anesthetized” are able to use their special sensibility for encounter, risk and smiling.
The event that gave a concrete and unforgettable face to the reconciliation was the prayer encounter in Villavicencio. In a semi-covered and overflowing structure, more than 6,000 people met before a small crucifix without arms or legs. It is the crucifix of Bojayá, which on May 2, 2002, was present and witnessed the massacre of dozens who had sought refuge in the church. There, together, were gathered the victims of violence: soldiers, police officers and ex-guerrillas. As one united people they now asked for peace.
In their stories there is all the horror of war. Anita, at the age of 14, was raped by a paramilitary commando while her entire family was exterminated before her own eyes. Angela, also at the age of 14, joined the guerrillas and, after six years of “hell on earth,” she asked for help. Indescribable is the testimony of Pastora Mira García who lost her father, husband and two children. She recounted how “[Three days after burying my son] I helped a young wounded man, and I let him sleep in my son’s room. When he was leaving, he saw my son’s photos and told me he was one of his murderers.” And she continued: “I thank God, with the help of the Madonna, who gave me the strength to help that man without doing him harm, despite my unspeakable pain.”
On these testimonials the word of the pope came down, lucidly and scandalously evangelical: “We are all, in the end, in one way or another, victims, innocent or guilty, but all victims, on one side and the other: all victims. All joined together in this loss of humanity that violence and death bring.”
The Church, restorative justice and the “counterculture of encounter”
Francis, in Colombia, gave two very long and fundamental speeches to the bishops: first to those of Colombia and then to the governing committee of CELAM. In these speeches there is a lot more than an exhortation bound up with the event: there is a true and proper ecclesiology of mission that expresses the profound feeling of the current pontificate. These speeches ought to be read together with those that the pope gave in Brazil in 2013: these were also “foundational” speeches.
Francis asked the bishops of the country to be the “guardians” of the first step in the path of peace. “In the dialogue with the State and society,” he had recommended in EG 241, “the Church does not have solutions for all the particular questions. However, together with the different social forces, it accompanies the proposals which are best able to respond to the dignity of the human person and the common good. In doing so, it proposes always with clarity the fundamental values of human existence, to transmit convictions which can then be translated into political actions.”
Illustrating this task, Francis painted the reality of Colombia as a scene full of movement, of “works in progress,” as if it were a building site or a path for “it has never been a goal fully attained, a destiny completely achieved.” For this reason, “every area of your episcopal ministry should be marked by the freedom to take the first step. The premise for the exercise of the apostolic ministry is a readiness to draw close to Jesus, ‘leaving behind all that we were, in order to become something we were not.’”
The Church therefore participates in a constant forward movement which is the movement of all people. It would be terrible if these were transformed into a “cast of functionaries bent by the tyranny of the present” or in the grips of “shady dealing (agendas encubiertas).” In firm tones, Francis said to the bishops: “You are not technicians or politicians, you are Pastors.” The bishops do not carry “formulas,” but a word that is neither bureaucratic nor abstract: a word that “shakes up” and is capable of changing hearts, sustaining a “change of direction,” keeping a “fixed gaze upon the real people.” The pope said in his homily during the Mass at Simón Bolívar Park that for the Word of God to meet this real person, we must be ready to go into the “open sea,” to “take to deep seas” within the human “tide.”
The pontiff also spoke a lot about “wounds” that are in the process of scabbing over, but not yet healed. One is reminded here of the appeal to be a “field hospital after a battle” that Francis repeated the evening of September 8 in his off-the-cuff remarks to the crowd outside the nunciature.
Concretely, the Church is called upon to make the most of the process of reconciliation, working so that it may be understood and applied correctly. For the Church “reconciliation” does not signify “impunity.” In fact, the parties have opted for a true “restorative” justice based on encounter, which the Church supports and sustains. It does not correspond to the crime-conviction-imprisonment formula, but rather to a justice that expects that the culpable admit their guilt, ask forgiveness and contribute to the reconstruction of the truth and the peace. The sentence aims at repaying the victims more than assigning blame to the guilty. But this is not the classic “amnesty”: it is a slow process requiring a lot of awareness and the involvement of everyone. It is like a therapy, a cure, which in the final homily in Cartagena was described as a “countercultural current of encounter.”
A slow process with contradictions and vulnerability
It would be an error to believe that the process is fast, or that it flows smoothly, or corresponds to an ideal paradigm. On the contrary, as the pope said during the liturgy of reconciliation in Villavicencio: “It is clear that in this great field which is Colombia there is still room for weeds. Let us not fool ourselves!” With a healthy realism, Francis continued inviting them to pay attention to the fruits, to take care of the wheat, not to lose the peace because of the weeds, not to have “alarmist reactions.”
Imperfection and incompleteness are part of the process, precisely because it is truly human and concrete. “Even when conflicts, violence or the desire for revenge remain,” Francis continued, “let us not impede justice and mercy from meeting in an embrace which takes up Colombia’s history of pain. Let us heal that pain and embrace every human being who has committed crimes, recognizes them, repents and works to make reparation, contributing to the construction of the new order in which justice and peace shine forth.”
It is interesting to note that, meeting priests, religious and seminarians in Medellín, Francis spoke of the action of God that unfolds “in situations full of contradictions and contrasts.” Indeed, “God manifests his closeness and his election where he wills, in the land he wills, in whatever situation it is in, with its real contradictions, as he wills. He changes the course of events to call men and women in the frailty of their own personal and shared history.” In summary, it is necessary to accept limits and weaknesses. The duty of the Church then is that of kneading itself into the concrete reality, standing alongside, promoting, sustaining and accompanying the action of God in history in the midst of contradictions and weaknesses.
A Latin–American Catholicism
Speaking to the governing committee of CELAM, the pope widened his gaze to the subcontinent and spoke of a “Latin-American Catholicism” with “a continental mission, which is not meant to be the sum of programs that fill agendas and waste precious energies, but the endeavor to place the mission of Jesus at the heart of the Church.”
He insisted that the bishops not fall into the temptation of “idealizing the evangelical message, of ecclesial functionalism and clericalism.” God does not call upon us as a “notary” would or a “sacred bureaucrat,” but as a father who in intimacy turns to his son. “Closeness and encounter,” therefore, are the instruments of God that the pastor must make his own in order to “set out concretely with Jesus in mission today in Latin America”: if you do not draw close and touch, you cannot “heal and save.” And the pope insisted on the adverb “concretely” because “the Gospel is always concrete” and does not entangle itself in the “bizantinismo” (frivolous objections) of the doctors of the law. Francis also repeated this concept in his homily in Medellín when he thundered against the pharisaical rigorism that constantly raises the sign “No Entry!”
However, it is a concreteness that never loses its visionary quality, farsightedness and passion. The pope spoke of a concretización visionaria. And he also spoke a lot about pasión: “passion of young lovers and of wise elders, a passion that turns ideas into viable utopias, a passion for the work of our hands, a passion that makes us constant pilgrims in our Churches.” In the homily in Medellín he also spoke of boldness and involvement.
To be concrete visionaries means putting ourselves day after day to work in the field and “to re-appropriate the verbs that the Word of God conjugates as he carries out his divine mission. To go forth to meet without keeping a safe distance; to take rest without being idle; to touch others without fear.” Therefore, “we cannot let ourselves be paralyzed by our air-conditioned offices, our statistics and our strategies. We have to speak to men and women in their concrete situations; we cannot avert our gaze from them. The mission is always carried out by one-to-one contact.” This unveils the true face of the people.
And what are the characteristics of this face? The pope says that this is a “mestizo face: not merely indigenous, Hispanic, Portuguese or African, but mestizo: Latin American!” Diversity characterizes both Colombia and Latin America in general. The body of the continent is a body brought to life by its differences, and this typifies Latin-American Catholicism itself.
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In the General Audience on the Wednesday following his return, reflecting on the journey, Francis said he wanted to bless the “desire for life and peace which overflows from the heart of that nation.” And he concluded by wishing that each Colombian “may make every day the first step toward his brother and sister, and thus build together, day after day, peace in love, in justice and in truth.”
.cf. F. Occhetta, “La Colombia, una repubblica in cerca di pace,” in Civ. Catt. 2003 IV 592-604; J. D. Rodríguez Cuadros, “Il processo di pace in Colombia,” ibid. 2015 I 365-377; F. De Roux, “Colombia: la riflessione di un testimone. La crisi, la pace e la Chiesa,” ibid. 2016 IV 356-370.
.cf. J. D. Rodríguez Cuadros, “La Colombiaalla vigilia della visita di Papa Francesco,” ibid. 2017 III 406-416.
.Francis, General Audience, September 13, 2017.
.The text of the conversation with the Colombian Jesuits is available here: https://laciviltacattolica.com/free-article/grace-is-not-an-ideology-a-private-conversation-with-some-colombian-jesuits/
.Francis, Address to the Authorities in Bogota, September 7, 2017.
.cf. A. Spadaro, “Intervista a Papa Francesco,” in Civ. Catt. 2013 III 461.
.cf. F. Occhetta, “Le radici morali della giustizia riparativa,” in Civ. Catt. 2008 IV 444-457; ibid., “La giustizia riparativa. Verso una nuova idea della pena,” ibid. 2010 IV 213-226; ibid., “Le vittime dei reati e il loro dolore,” ibid. 2016 264-274.
.Returning to the nunciature after the first intense day in Bogotá, the pope met a child called Maria who has Down syndrome. She said to him that she was “very vulnerable.” The pope – profoundly moved – took the opportunity to say: “We want a world where vulnerability is recognized as essential to humanity. Instead of weakening us, it reinforces us and gives us dignity. A common meeting place that humanizes us.” And it is important therefore that “this vulnerability is respected, caressed, taken care of as much as possible, and that it yields fruit for others. We are all vulnerable.” Sure, “in some, it is seen, and in others, it is not seen. However, it is the essence of humanity this necessity of being sustained by God.” Therefore, “for this reason, one ought not, it is not possible to throw anyone away.” Two days later, in the same place, Francis used these expressions: “The protagonist of history is the beggar, the protagonist of the history of salvation is the beggar, the one who lives inside each one of us.”
.Francis, General Audience, September 13, 2017.