The Holy Father laid out the priorities for the Church in Colombia at the first of this year’s “ad limina” visits of the Colombian ecclesiastical provinces which took place this morning: peace and reconciliation, ardent evangelization, defense of family life, and continual fostering of the encouraging number of religious vocations.
The Pope pointed to the “fruits of holiness” in the Colombian Church with the recent beatifications of Fr. Mariano Euse and Mother Laura Montoya, “venerated as a mother of the indigenous,” as he addressed the bishops from the Colombian ecclesiastical provinces of Medellin, Barranquilla, Cali, Cartagena, Manizales, Popayan and Santa Fe de Antioquia.
The Holy Father encouraged them to keep up their hope for the future, “while working for the service of the kingdom of God, spurred on by Christ's words, 'Duc in altum.'”
“With these words of Christ which I have proposed as a motto for the third Christian millennium, I want to encourage you to continue, without disappointments and with total confidence in the Lord in the task of evangelization, the primordial mission of the Church.”
He noted the suffering of Colombia, “where for years there has been an internal conflict that causes so many innocent victims, so much pain for families and society; a conflict which generates poverty, insecurity and stifles the possibilities for integral development.”
“You are conscious,” he said, “that in pastoral care you must give priority to peace and reconciliation, contributing in this way to building up society on the solid Christian
principles of hope, justice, love and freedom, and also fomenting the forgiveness that is born from a sincere desire for reconciliation with God and our brothers and sisters.”
John Paul II urged the prelates never to hesitate “to put all their zeal and pastoral commitment into promoting reconciliation which comes from evangelization, with the intimate conviction that it will illuminate the activity of Christian lay people.”
This evangelical reconciliation will also be “an effective and permanent remedy for the difficult and serious evils that afflict many citizens of your nation, due to the internal civil conflict which has caused so many deaths, claiming as its victims even servants of the Gospel,” he continued.
He then recalled Msgr. Isaias Duarte, archbishop of Cali, as well as other priests and religious who have been assassinated in recent years.
“Another area of pastoral activity that requires special attention,” said the Pope, “includes promoting and defending the institution of the family, which is so attacked today from diverse fronts with multiple and subtle arguments.”
The Pope highlighted the bishops' efforts “to defend and promote the institution of family” and he emphasized the “need to continue to proclaim firmly the truth about marriage and family, established by God, as an authentic service to society.”
“Not doing so,” he added, “would be a grave pastoral omission that would induce believers to error, as well as those have the serious responsibility to make decisions for the common good of the nation."
The Pope pointed out that "a sign of hope for the Church in Colombia is the flourishing of vocations," and he encouraged the bishops not to "neglect an assiduous pastoral care for the future" in this field.
He reminded them to remain "conscious of the irreplaceable role of each ecclesial community in this duty," founded on prayer for vocations and preparation of young people in order to hear the divine call to follow Christ.
The ecclesiastical provinces of Medellin and Sante Fe de Antioquia in Colombia have the highest rate of religious vocations of any ecclesiastical province in the world.
The Pope asked the Colombian prelates to convey his greetings to young people and in particular "to those who are preparing for the priesthood or religious life, to families, ... and especially to those families that are suffering due to members who have been kidnapped, to the poor and needy, ... and the sick and elderly."