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20170910T1829 0937 CNS POPE CARTAGENA MASS 800Pope Francis celebrates Mass at Contecar terminal in Cartagena, Colombia, Sept. 10. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)ARTAGENA, Colombia (CNS) -- Pope Francis capped a five-day trip to Colombia with a call for culture change in a country attempting to pursue a path of peace and reconciliation after decades of armed conflict and centuries of social exclusion.

The pope issued his call in Cartagena, on Colombia's Caribbean Coast, where he remembered St. Peter Claver and urged the country to follow the example set centuries earlier by the priest, who tended to slaves arriving on ships by showing kind gestures and dignity.

"We are required to generate 'from below' a change in culture, so we respond to the culture of death and violence with the culture of life and encounter," Pope Francis said Sept. 10, prior to returning to Rome.

"How many times have we 'normalized' the logic of violence and social exclusion, without prophetically raising our hands or voices?" Pope Francis asked. "Alongside St. Peter Claver were thousands of Christians, many of them consecrated, but only a handful started a countercultural movement of encounter."

The final Mass, celebrated at the docks and full of up-tempo music and worship, reiterated many of the themes Pope Francis raised throughout his trip to Colombia: peace, reconciliation and social inclusion, to name but three.

He also invoked the motto for his trip, "Let's take the first step." The motto speaks to the collective action needed pull together a country polarized by class divisions, social inequality and how to implement a recently approved peace accord. The accord between the government and guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, is not universally popular, though the pursuit of peace is.

But Pope Francis pleaded with Colombians to play their personal part in achieving peace and for Catholics to set the example by living their Christian values.

"We pray to fulfil the theme of this visit: 'Let us take the first step!' And may this first step be in a common direction. To 'take the first step' is, above all, to go out and meet others, with Christ the Lord," Pope Francis said.

"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," he continued.

"Only if we help to untie the knots of violence will we unravel the complex threads of disagreements. The Lord is able to untie that which seems impossible to us, and he has promised to accompany us to the end of time and will bring to fruition all our efforts."

During his Sept. 6-10 visit, Pope Francis heard the voice of victims and victimizers. At the Mass in Cartagena, he departed from his prepared remarks to denounce the illegal drug business, which has spurred violence in the Andean region -- where coca is grown -- and beyond.

"I strongly condemn this scourge which has put an end to so many lives and is sustained by unscrupulous men," Pope Francis said. "I'm making a call so that we explore all ways to end narcotics trafficking. The only thing it has done is sow death all over the place, truncating so many hopes and destroying so many families."

Pope Francis titled his homily, "Dignity of the person and human rights," and he listed a litany of indignities harming the country and much of the region: money laundering and financial speculation, resource exploitation and destruction of the environment, along with "The overlooked tragedy of migrants."

He again spoke of the necessity of seeking truth and providing justice for those wronged in Colombia to reconcile its recent past, which is marred by an armed conflict leaving 220,000 dead and millions more displaced.

"Deep historic wounds necessarily require moments where justice is done, where victims are given the opportunity to know the truth, where damage is adequately repaired and clear commitments are made to avoid repeating those crimes," he said.

"No collective process excuses us from the challenge of meeting, clarifying, forgiving." 
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alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.