The saint, who is buried beneath the altar in the church with his name, was "austere and charitable to the point of heroism," the Pope said. And after helping hundreds of thousands of people, he himself spent the last four years of his life sick and confined to a bad cell.
St. Peter Claver is also a witness to the responsibility and care we should have for one another, he noted, despite the criticism he faced from those who hated his ministry and thought it would undermine the lucrative slave trade.
In Colombia and around the world millions of people are still being sold into slavery, the Pope emphasized. "They either beg for some expressions of humanity, moments of tenderness, or they flee by sea or land because they have lost everything, primarily their dignity and their rights."
"María de Chiquinquirá and Peter Claver invite us to work to promote the dignity of all our brothers and sisters, particularly the poor and the excluded of society, those who are abandoned, immigrants, and those who suffer violence and human trafficking."
They all have human dignity, he concluded, because they are living images of God. "We all are created in the image and likeness of God, and the Blessed Virgin holds each one of us in her arms as her beloved children."
"Let us now turn to Our Blessed Virgin Mother in prayer, so that she may help us recognize the face of God in every man and woman of our time."
After the Angelus, the Pope assured those present of his prayers for the countries of Latin America, particularly Venezuela, expressing his closeness to the nation and those from the nation who have been welcomed into Colombia.
"From this city, known as the seat of human rights, I appeal for the rejection of all violence in political life and for a solution to the current grave crisis, which affects everyone, particularly the poorest and most disadvantaged of society," he said.
Before the Angelus in the Square of St. Peter Claver, Pope Francis blessed the cornerstones of two new homeless shelters being built in Cartagena. He also visited the home of a woman who opens her home daily to those in need, giving them food and affection.
"These visits have done me much good because they demonstrate how the love of God is made visible each day," Francis said.
In his blessing of the cornerstones in St. Francis Square, the Pope prayed to the Lord that he would "fill with your blessings these servants of yours, who wish to devote themselves generously to the help of their brothers; so that, in urgent needs, they may serve you faithfully and fully in the person of their neighbor. Through Jesus Christ our Lord."
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter