Colombian President Thanks Pope for Commitment to Peace

Pastrana Will Leave Office in August

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 10, 2002 ( Colombian President Andrés Pastrana visited John Paul II to thank him for the 14 messages of solidarity he sent to the country during Pastrana´s years in government.

The meeting today between the Holy Father and the Colombian head of state, who will hand over power on Aug. 7 to Álvaro Uribe, lasted about 20 minutes. It was held in the Pope´s private library.

On June 6, John Paul II sent a message to the Colombian people on the occasion of the centenary celebration of the country´s consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He proposed «a great national movement of reconciliation and forgiveness» to end the nation´s decades-long strife.

Pastrana, president since 1998, spoke to the Holy Father about the work for peace undertaken in Colombia by the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Beniamino Stella.

John Paul II, who remained seated throughout the meeting because of his arthritic knee, spoke in Spanish and asked for information on Armero, the Colombian area destroyed by a volcano in 1985, which caused 25,000 deaths. The Pope visited Colombia in July 1986.

At the end of the meeting, the Colombian president introduced his wife, Nohra Puyana, and his entourage to the Pope.

The president´s Vatican audience took place within the framework of his visit to Rome for the World Food Summit. Pastrana gave John Paul II a book on Colombian plants and another on works of art. John Paul II gave him a series of medals of his pontificate.

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