Colombia to host 2014 World Congress on Divine Mercy

The Bishops' Conference of Colombia has announced that the capital city of Bogota will be the site of the third World Apostolic Congress on Divine Mercy, to be held Aug. 15-19, 2014.

Bishop Julio Hernando Garcia of Istima Tado, who heads the committee charged with organizing the event, made the announcement during a press conference on Aug. 8.

He said the congress will be "a platform for healing the wounds of the conflict that has shaken the country for more than 60 years."

"All of the problems that we are living through and experiencing in the country pose an enormous challenge, such that the congress can't be simply a pious experience. It also must have a social transcendence that implies political and economic commitments and very concrete realities," the bishop said.

The announcement was made amid ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the rebel group FARC after half a century of armed conflict that has resulted in more than 600,000 deaths.

Previously, the World Congress on Divine Mercy has been held in Rome in 2006 and in Poland in 2011.

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, president of the congress, called the 2014 gathering a "great opportunity for Colombia because the country is in the process of reconciliation and peace, and the more the message of the mercy of God is made known, the more people are able to live out all of this."

The secretary of the Colombian bishops' conference, Bishop Jose Daniel Falla Robles, said that forgiveness is an important aspect of the faith and that "there needs to be peace, reconciliation and forgiveness in the heart, and this demands that we show mercy."

"We don't know how the peace process will end," he said. "I hope we could all know, but the congress on mercy will come after this, and without or without a signed accord, the Church has the duty to work for mercy. It is our duty to draw near to the suffering of each person."

"In fact," he continued, "the word mercy comes from drawing near in heart to those who suffer, to human misery, to injustices, to those families that have been divested of everything because of the violence in our country."

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