“Do not lose hope. Do not miss the joy, the smile, carry on like that”. Pope Francis spoke to a group of young Colombians, encountered in the Nunciature of Bogota, participating in a program of recovery from drugs and from the streets of the “barrios”, the poorest neighbourhoods of the Colombian cities. “Thanks again for your courage, do not let anyone steal your cheerfulness, none can steal it, and let no one deceiving you nor stealing hope,” concluded Francis.
On his arrival in Colombia, after being greeted at the airport by the President Juan Manuel Santos, Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for this historic agreement with the former the FARC guerrillas, and by the first lady Maria Clemencia Rodriguez, the Pontiff entered immediately in “Medias Res”. Right at the airport, where he was welcomed with music, dances and traditional costumes Francis shook hands and greeted some of the victims of the armed conflict which for decades has stained the country with blood. In the group, there were soldiers in uniform and civilians.
Among the children greeted by the Pope there was Emmanuel, son of Clara Rojas, today member of parliament, kidnapped in 2002 and held as hostage for years by the Farc in the Colombian forest, where the baby was born. As a symbol of peace, Emmanuel delivered to Francis a dove in white porcelain created by a sculptor and photographer of Bogota, Ana Gonzalez Rojas. “It is the first child of Colombia to be greeted by the Pope” during the visit of the Pope in the country, stated the local media.
The program for today
This Thursday morning, Bergoglio will meet the authorities of the country during the visit to the presidential palace in which he will have a meeting with Santos, and that will be his first speech of the visit, before the great Mass that he will celebrate in the afternoon at the Park Simon Bolivar. On his arrival, the Pontiff was already surrounded by a crowd, among the hundreds of thousands of faithful who greeted him along the 15-km travelled with his Popemobile from the airport to the Nunciature. The crucial moments of the first day of the program will also be the meeting with the Colombian Bishops and the one with the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM): and in this context also stands out the meeting scheduled with the Bishops of Venezuela after the mass. There will be the Cardinals Jorge Urosa Savino and Baltazar Porras, Mons. José Luis Azuaje, Mons. Mario Moronta and Mons. Jesus González de Zárate, that will “express the affection of the people of Venezuela to the Successor of Peter, and will also thank him for his interest in the solution of the problems of Venezuela”.