Pope Benedict XVI has sent a video-taped message to the bishops of Colombia in which he calls for an end to the “violence, kidnapping and extortion” that is affecting so many in that country. The bishops are currently gathered to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of their conference.
According to Vatican Radio, the video was played during the Colombian bishops’ General Assembly this week. The Pope said he was mindful of their effort to be "men of harmony" and of their "continual exhortations for an end to the violence, kidnapping, and extortion which affect so many sons and daughters of that beloved land.” “I fervently pray to God for an end to these situations which have caused so much suffering, and for a stable and just peace in Colombia, in a climate of hope and prosperity,” he said.
The Pontiff also said he joined the bishops in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of their conference, praising them for their “eloquent testimony of apostolic zeal.” The anniversary, the Pope said, is a “providential occasion for considering the testimony of those who came before us and for helping our brothers and sisters to strengthen their friendship with Jesus Christ, to receive his Word with purity of heart, to celebrate the sacraments with joy and to serve others with enthusiasm, especially those most in need, bringing them a message of peace, justice and reconciliation.”
Referring to the challenges facing the Church in Colombia, Benedict XVI assured the bishops of his "prayers and spiritual closeness in the efforts you are making to ensure the Gospel rings out in all parts of Colombian territory, through initiatives in the fields of pastoral care in education and in universities, and in the concern you show for the imprisoned, the sick, the elderly, indigenous peoples, workers, the displaced, the young and families."
"In the certainty that you are laying solid foundations for a promising future, and for the good of the whole Church", he continued, "I encourage your to redouble your attention towards priests, seminarians, missionaries and religious, and to give renewed impetus to the various formational programmes for catechists, lay people and pastoral care workers."