For 25 years, the Bishops' Conference of Colombia has been encouraging Colombians to pray for peace, in their desire to see the country’s decades-long civil conflict come to an end.
On Monday, Benedict XVI expressed his own hopes the new peace talks announced by the Colombian government and the rebel group FARC, to be held Oct. 5 in Oslo, would be successful.
“May those who take part in that initiative be guided by a commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation, in the sincere search for the common good,” the Pope said.
In an interview with CNA, Archbishop Ricardo Tobon Restrepo of Medellin said the bishops praised the Colombian government for its willingness to begin a new dialogue with the FARC and pledged to do whatever they can to contribute to its success.
The bishops' pilgrimage to Assisi is a sign of their unity with the desire of the Colombian people and the efforts of the government to bring peace to the country, he said.
However, the entire nation of Colombia, “and not just the armed rebel groups, needs to learn how to live in peace.”
“I think that every human person has a seed of goodness in his or her heart, and we must understand that violence is not humane, that everyone loses in war, that mutual confrontation brings nothing but disasters, and we must come to an agreement in order to live in peace,” Archbishop Tobon said.
“We trust in God’s help so that all of the different endeavors for peace will have a positive outcome.”
Archbishop Jairo Jaramillo Monsalve of Barranquilla told CNA that the Colombian people “are flooded with violence and war and are tired of experiencing death and bloodshed.”
He noted that the FARC and those of other rebel groups have also grown weary of war and violence, “and I hope that all of us in good faith will seek out the path to peace for our country.”
Archbishop Jaramillo said the Colombian bishops look to St. Francis as an example of “a man of deep spirituality and captivating love of God, and especially a love for peace.”
St. Francis “always prayed to the Lord saying, 'Lord make me an instrument of your peace,'” the archbishop continued.
“Let us pray that the Lord will make all of us, each and every Colombian...and instrument of his peace,” he said.
In the wake of Pope Benedict's call for peace in Colombia, the country's bishops, who are in Rome for their ad limina visit, made a pilgrimage to the Church of St. Francis in Assisi to pray for reconciliation.
Ad Limina, Colombia