John Paul II Sends Message of Solidarity to Colombians

Delegation of U.S. and European Bishops to Visit President

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 13, 2003 (Zenit.org).- A delegation of U.S. and European bishops bring a papal message of Christian solidarity to the people of Colombia.



Archbishop Paul J. Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," who heads the delegation, arrived with a message from John Paul II, who hopes that the visit will "manifest" ecclesial "communion."

The Pope also hopes that it "will be a propitious occasion to proclaim the evangelical message with renewed strength, especially to those who suffer or are deprived of the minimal conditions for subsistence."

John Paul II believes that "peace cannot be constructed" if there is no solidarity with Colombia, a country that has bled for four decades from an internal conflict that kills thousands every year.

In addition to Archbishop Cordes, the delegation includes Monsignor Josef Sayer, Director of Misereor (http://www.misereor.de), a charitable organization of the Catholic Church in Germany, as well as representatives of the Episcopal Conferences of Italy, Spain, France, Austria, Switzerland, and the United States, explained a "Cor Unum" statement issued on Tuesday in the Vatican.

The delegation will meet with Archbishop Beniamino Stella, the apostolic nuncio in Colombia, as well as with representatives of the Colombian Episcopal Conference, with bishops of several regions, and with Catholic NGOs.

"Cor Unum" explained that "in the different places particular importance will be given to the testimony of faith through the Eucharistic celebration, open to the participation of all the faithful."

The delegation will also meet with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez, and with Vice President Francisco Santos Calderon; with Michael Fruling, the U.N. Human Rights representative in Colombia, and with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. They will also hold talks with politicians and local authorities.

The "Cor Unum" statement explained that the program includes a "visit to the incarcerated of Medellin, and some particularly poor neighborhoods of Quibdo."

On May 17, there will be a ceremony in Bojaya in memory of the victims of the Bella Vista massacre of May 2, 2002, when some 19 people were killed who had sought refuge in a church.

The mission of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" is to promote and coordinate the work of the charitable organizations and institutions of the Catholic Church.

It presides over the "Populorum Progressio" Foundation, established to help Indian and peasant peoples in Latin America. Since 1992, the Foundation has allocated some $15 million.