Pope urges greater cooperation for development in Colombia, El Salvador
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.- In meetings with the new ambassadors to the Vatican from Colombia and El Salvador, Pope Benedict XVI urged their governments to work for full human development and an end to violence.

The Pope reminded Colombia’s ambassador Cesar Velasquez that the more than 200-year history of the Catholic Church in Colombia has left "indelible traces" on the nation’s culture and social institutions.

The Church, the Pope said, does not demand “special privileges,” only the freedom necessary to carry out its mission of salvation. “She yearns only to serve the faithful and all those who open their hearts to her," Benedict XVI said of the Church.

He added that the Church is "ever ready" to work with civil leaders for the common good in areas such as education, defense of the rights of indigenous peoples, and the fight against, poverty, drug trafficking, and government corruption.

At the core of this "friendly" collaboration, the Pope insisted, is the promotion of human dignity. Law and public policy must protect life from conception to natural death. In addition, he said, Colombian society must work to protect the traditional definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.

These are "irreplaceable pillars in building a society that is truly worthy of humanity and our fundamental values," he said.

In his address to El Salvador’s new ambassador, Manuel Lopez, the Pope said the Church’s mission fosters the "public good in all dimensions."

“Evangelizing and bearing witness to love for God and for all persons without exception becomes an effective element in eradicating poverty and is a vigorous incentive to fight against violence, impunity, and drug trafficking, which are wreaking such havoc, especially among youth," he said.

He warned against the "aggressive presence of sects" in Salvadoran society which are "obscuring the beauty of the Gospel message and tearing apart the unity of the faithful."

Praising the country's efforts to ensure continuing peace since an agreement was reached that ended civil war in 1992, he prayed that the country might be assisted in any necessary way "to renounce the causes of conflict definitively, replacing enmity with mutual understanding and ensuring protection for people and their belongings.

"In order to achieve these goals, people must be convinced that nothing is to be gained by violence, indeed that everything is worsened because violence is a dead end. ... By contrast, peace is the yearning of every human being who takes pride in that name."

Pope Benedict concluded his address to the El Salvadoran ambassador by saying that peace, as a gift from the Lord, is a "task in which everyone should co-operate unhesitatingly" with the support of the State and security forces. Authorities "will always find the outstretched hand of the children of the Church," said the Pope.

Concluding, he exhorted Christians to "increasingly identify with (the Lord), asking Him to make every El Salvadoran an architect of reconciliation."

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