Papal visit to Colombia in 2013 is possible

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Archbishop Dario de Jesus Monsalve of Cali, Colombia said Sept. 4 that Pope Benedict XVI supports the ongoing peace process and is considering a visit to the country in 2013.

“Pope Benedict XVI is considering a visit to Cali and Barranquilla next year, and he offered his support for the peace process in Colombia,” Archbishop Monsalve said in an interview with  Colombian radio from Rome.

The archbishop, who is currently on his ad limina visit, said the Pope “invited us to participate in Colombia’s peace process, and he seemed very interested in the negotiations.”

He also noted that Pope Benedict “was very concerned about those kidnapped and held by illegal groups in the mountains of Colombia, saying they should be released. And he asked about those who are murdered and whose bodies are never even returned to their families.” 

“Above all he asked about the violence in Buenaventura, and he was concerned about the urban conflicts in our country,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Monsalve said the Holy Father is following the negotiations between the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the rebel group FARC. “He seemed very interested in the talks and negotiations aimed at ending the armed conflict in the country,” he added.

He said the Pope encouraged the bishops to “sow lasting peace in the hearts” of Colombians, and asked about the native tribes and “how they are being involved in the peace process.”

The Colombian bishops have extended an invitation to the Pope to visit Cali and Barranquilla in 2013, when he travels to Brazil for World Youth Day. Archbishop Monsalve reported that the Pope “thinks it is possible, since they are cities that have a climate friendly to his health.”

The archbishop also said new steps could soon be taken towards the canonization of Blessed Laura Montoya, who devoted much of her life to working with the native Indians and would be the first Colombian-born saint.

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