Sunday | January 21, 2018
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Pope urges forgiveness in Colombia after decades of conflict

BOGOTA, Colombia — Pope Francis urged young Colombians on Thursday to take the lead in promoting forgiveness to help their country heal from a half-century of conflict, saying they should “look to the future without the burden of hatred” that their elders often carry.

From the halls of the presidential palace to the green hills of Bogota’s Simon Bolivar park, Francis brought his message of reconciliation to a country still bitterly divided over the peace deal with leftist rebels that is seeking to end Latin America’s longest-running armed rebellion. And he demanded that its leaders now address the gross inequalities that sparked the conflict to begin with.

“Let us not forget that inequality is the root of social ills,” he told a crowd at Bogota’s presidential palace that included disabled children and soldiers with amputated limbs.

While his appeal for forgiveness may be hard for some to swallow, Francis was nevertheless given a rock star’s welcome on his first full day in Colombia. Young choir members abandoned their positions in the palace courtyard and threw their arms around him as he arrived. In Bogota’s main Plaza Bolivar, thousands of young people interrupted him repeatedly with cheers. And officials estimated 1.3 million people flocked to Bogota’s main park for his open-air Mass, far more than the 700,000 expected.

History’s first Latin American pope took the crowds, interruptions, protocol hiccups and security breaches in stride, seemingly relishing in the adoration of one of the continent’s most staunchly Roman Catholic countries.

His message though was stern, urging the country’s elite and ordinary to resist the temptation for vengeance, the “corrupting darkness” of self-interest, and instead build bridges to help the nation heal.


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