"Nothing can replace that healing encounter; no collective process excuses us from the challenge of meeting, clarifying, forgiving," he said, explaining that the deep, historic wounds the country has suffered "necessarily require moments where justice is done."
This means giving victims the opportunity to know the truth, ensuring that damages are adequately repaired and making clear and firm commitments to not repeat the same crimes in the future.
However, the Pope said this is "only the beginning" of the Christian response. Followers of Christ, he said, must generate a change in culture "from below," so that we "respond to the culture of death and violence, with the culture of life and encounter."
Francis then questioned those present on both how hard they have worked for peace, and, on the contrary, how much they have neglected in the process, "allowing barbarity to become enfleshed in the life of our people."
"How many times have we 'normalized' the logic of violence and social exclusion, without prophetically raising our hands or voices!" he said, noting that there were thousands of Christians around during the time of St. Peter Claver, including many who were consecrated, "but only a handful started a counter-cultural movement of encounter."
St. Peter Claver didn't have "prestigious academic qualifications, and he even said of himself that he was mediocre in terms of intelligence," the Pope observed. "But he had the genius to live the Gospel to the full, to meet those whom others considered merely as waste material."
In the process of encountering others, we discover our rights and rebuild our lives so they can reemerge as "authentically human," he said, and urged all men and women to defend the sacredness "of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic."
However, when looking to the Gospel, Jesus shows us that some choose to stay closed, continuing to do evil.
"We cannot deny that there are people who persist in sins that damage the fabric of our coexistence and community," he said, and pointed to the "heartbreaking drama" of drugs, the destruction of nature due to pollution, the exploitation of labor and money laundering and human trafficking.
The Pope went off-the-cuff briefly to emphasize the evil of trafficking.
"This evil is a direct attack against the dignity of the human person and progressively breaks the image that the creator infused in us," he said. "I firmly condemn this scourge which has put an end to so many lives and which is sustained by unscrupulous men.
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"You cannot play with the life of a human being, nor manipulate their dignity. I make a call to find ways to end drug trafficking, which sows death everywhere, truncating so many hopes and dreams and destroys so many families."
Returning to his script, Pope Francis then spoke about prostitution, "which ever day reaps innocent victims, especially the young, robbing them of their future," and condemned the crimes and abuses against minors, as well as the "frequently overlooked" plight of migrants, "who are often victims of disgraceful and illegal manipulation."
Society must be prepared for this, "and solidly base ourselves upon principles of justice that in no way diminish charity," the Pope said, adding that "it is only possible to live peacefully by avoiding actions that corrupt or harm life."
Finally, Pope Francis said Jesus asks everyone to pray together for peace, so that this prayer, "even with its personal nuances and different emphases, becomes symphonic and arises as one single cry."
"I am sure that today we pray together for the rescue of those who were wrong and not for their destruction, for justice and not revenge, for healing in truth and not for oblivion," he said, and, pointing to the theme of the trip "let us take the first step," voiced hope that "this first step be in a common direction."
The Pope closed his speech saying that if Colombia wants a stable and lasting peace, " it must urgently take a step in this direction, which is that of the common good, of equity, of justice, of respect for human nature and its demands."