Pope Francis is set to travel to Colombia from 6 to 11 September. He will be the third Pope to visit the Latin American nation in the footsteps of Pope Paul VI in 1964 and Pope Saint John Paul II in 1986.
Francis begins his trip in the capital Bogota and also will visit the cities of Villavicencio, Medellin and Cartagena.
It is a crucial moment for Colombia, which is in the throes of implementing a peace agreement with FARC rebels after a 52-year internal conflict that has left over 260,000 people dead, 60,000 unaccounted for and over 7 million displaced.
Pope Francis has sent a video message to the people of Colombia ahead of his Apostolic Journey to the country, in which he has invited all Colombians to “take the first step” in reaching out to their neighbor in a sign of peace.
He thanked those “who welcome me to your land and into your heart” for their many efforts to prepare his visit.
“Let us take the first step” is the theme of his Apostolic Journey to Colombia, and the Holy Father said it “urges us to be the first to love, in order to build bridges and create solidarity.”
He said Colombia has long yearned and worked for peace, which, he said, should be “a stable and lasting peace, so that we see and treat each other as brothers and not as enemies.”
“Peace,” he said, “reminds us that we are all children of the same Father, who loves and consoles us.”
Pope Francis went on to say he is “honored to visit this land so rich in history, culture, and faith.”
He called Colombia a land “of men and women who have labored with tenacity and perseverance to make it a place where harmony and solidarity reign, where the Gospel is known and loved, and where saying ‘brother and sister’ seems not out of place but a true treasure to protect and defend.”
Finally, the Holy Father said the Church is called “to the task of promoting reconciliation, both with the Lord and between brothers, as well as reconciliation with the environment, which is God’s Creation and which we are savagely exploiting.”
This will be Pope Francis’ 20th Apostolic Journey abroad and sees him visiting the cities of Bogota, Villavicencio, Medellin and Cartagena.
Pope Francis will return to Rome on Monday 11 September.