Pope to visit Colombia as it emerges from half-century of war

Pope Francis greets Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, center, and former President Alvaro Uribe, Dec. 16 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout via Reuters)

By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis will visit Colombia in mid-September as the Latin American nation works to implement a new peace deal and rebuild after 52 years of war.

The Vatican announced March 10 that the pope had accepted the invitation of President Juan Manuel Santos and the Colombian bishops.

The trip, Sept. 6-11, will include visits to the cities of Bogota, Villavicencio, Medellin and Cartagena. Details of the trip were to be published at a later date.

Pope Francis will be the third pope to visit the nation after Blessed Paul VI and St. John Paul II. The previous papal visit there was 31 years ago in 1986.

The bishops’ conference posted on their website the trip logo: the pope smiling and walking flanked by the white and yellow colors of the Vatican on one side and an early indigenous symbol on the other. The motto is “Let us take the first step” (“Demos el primer paso”).

Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, apostolic nuncio to Colombia, said: “The pope wants to come to meet the Colombian people; he comes for those who live in the cities and for those who live in the countryside and have a different culture and needs; for the rich and for the poor; for the youth and for the elderly.”

Archbishop Balestrero also noted that the pope will only visit Colombia on this trip, he said in a statement he gave at a news conference and published online on the conference website.

“It is rare that the pope visits only one country and that he stays there for four days. This shows the importance that (Pope) Francis attributes to this visit and, ultimately, to Colombia,” he said.

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