(Vatican Radio) Calling himself a pilgrim of peace and hope Pope Francis urged some 22,000 young people gathered in Bogotá’s Bolivar Square not be afraid of the future: “Dare to dream big, he said, I want to invite you to that great dream today”.
And of course Pope Francis was asking them to make that dream of a peaceful future for Colombia come true. He’s been very clear that his presence here at this crucial moment in which all Colombians are called to overcome fear and division is a concrete sign of encouragement and support. Just minutes earlier he had told the Bishops to give their flock the courage “to take the first step towards definitive peace and reconciliation, towards abdicating the method of violence and overcoming the inequalities at the root of so much suffering”.
As the government tries to push forward its programme for reconciliation and reconstruction, it has become increasingly clear that one of the major obstacles lies in the deep divisions that wound Colombian society. That’s why young people are so important in the process as they represent the future and are those who have the most to lose or to gain.
“Do not let anyone rob you of joy”, the Pope said to them, “look after that joy which unites everyone” in the knowledge that the flame of Jesus’s love is sufficient to set the whole world ablaze. “How could you not be capable of changing this society?”
The Pope did not shy away from highlighting the fact that young Colombians have “endured difficult and dark moments and how contexts of death, pain and division can impact one so deeply “that they have left you half-dazed”. But he also lingered over the fact that for young people it is so easy to encounter one another: all you need is a good coffee, a good drink, a football game – he said – and you teach us that the culture of encounter is not in thinking, living or reacting to everyone in the same way, but in “knowing that beyond our differences we are all part of something greater that unites and transcends us; we are part of this wonderful country”.
And touching on another fundamental and thorny issue of the Colombian peace process, Francis said that youthfulness makes one capable of forgiving and leaving behind what has hurt us to look to the future without the burden of hatred.
“Colombia – he said to the young people – needs you!”
With Pope Francis in Bogotà, I’m Linda Bordoni