VATICAN CITY, JUNE 6, 2002 ( On the centenary of Colombia´s consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, John Paul II made an impassioned appeal for national reconciliation in the country.

In a message sent for the occasion, the Holy Father says he hopes that the renewal of this gesture of love for Christ will open the way to "a great national movement of reconciliation and forgiveness."

The country has lived with violent conflict for 38 years, and is plagued by drug trafficking. Violence in the past decade alone has claimed 40,000 lives.

The first consecration of this Latin American country to the Sacred Heart took place during another period of civil conflict, the "thousand days´ war" from Oct. 17, 1899, to June 1, 1903.

On June 22, 1902, with the support of the people and the civil authorities, the Colombian bishops consecrated the country to the Sacred Heart, promising also to build a votive church to implore for peace.

In his message, sent to Archbishop Alberto Giraldo Jaramillo of Medellin, president of the Colombian episcopal conference, the Holy Father reiterated the appeal he made at the start of his pontificate: "Open wide the doors to Christ!"

The renewal of the consecration to the Sacred Heart, the papal message states, must not only be a sign of "personal conversion," but also "be accompanied by a profound social transformation, which begins by fortifying the institution of the family, which is the richest school of humanism."

"The society that listens to and follows the message of Christ walks toward authentic peace, rejects every form of violence, and generates new forms of coexistence on the sure and firm path of justice, reconciliation and forgiveness, fostering bonds of unity, fraternity and respect for one another," the message continues.

At the same time, consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus must be "a time to implore God for the gift of peace and to commit oneself, each one from his own place in society, to lay the bases for the moral and material reconstruction of your national community," the Pope concluded.