Pope Has A Bumpy Day In Colombia
CARTEGENA, Colombia (CNN) — Pope Francis’ final day in Colombia got off to a bumpy start when he hit his head inside the Popemobile as it traveled down the streets of Cartegena, cutting his eyebrow and bruising his cheek.
After the application of some ice and a butterfly bandage to the eyebrow, the Vatican said the Pope was fine and he continued his full schedule Sunday (Sept. 10) in this historic town on the Caribbean sea.
Francis had come to Colombia to talk about peace, and from Cartegena he extended that message to neighboring Venezuela.
“From this city, seat of human rights,” the Pope said, “I make an appeal that all types of violence in political life be renounced.”
Cartagena, where missionary priests worked on behalf of slaves and the oppressed in the 17th century, has become known as a hub of human rights advocacy in Colombia.
Francis used the last stop of his five-day visit to call for an end to all types of human rights violations from prostitution to pollution.
“I think of the abomination of human trafficking, crimes and abuses against minors, the horror of slavery still present in many parts of the world,” Francis said, quoting from his World Day of Peace Message in 2014.
In Medellin on Saturday, Francis made only a brief, unscripted reference to the city’s once notorious drug trade, preferring to focus on the city’s strong Catholic roots and the promise of peace.
The tenuous peace, which the Colombian government negotiated with leftist guerrilla group FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in 2016, ending a 52-year civil war, was the reason for Francis’s trip here.
At a home for children orphaned by the war in Medellin, 13-year-old Claudia Yesenia Garcia Ramirez told the Pope that she was the only member of her family to survive a massacre by guerrillas when she was two years old.
“I was shot in the abdomen and a bullet grazed my head, so I spent much time in the hospital,” she told the Pope in the courtyard of the orphanage she now calls home surrounded by hundreds of girls with similar stories.
Claudia’s story was echoed by the people of Villavicencio, site of some of the most brutal guerrilla warfare during the last five decades.
The Pope listened to families who had lost loved ones and to former guerrilla fighters who had repented and given up their weapons.
Francis’ message throughout his five-day visit has been one of forgiveness and reconciliation. It is a hard message for many Colombians who still have the trauma of kidnappings and killings fresh in their minds, but one which seems to have already had an important effect.
The leader of the guerrilla group FARC, Rodrigo Londono, asked forgiveness on Friday for the suffering his group caused to the Colombian people, in an open letter to Pope Francis.
“Your repeated expressions about God’s infinite mercy move me to plead your forgiveness for any tears and pain that we have caused the people of Colombia,” Londono wrote.