"Moral Reconstruction" of Colombia Urged

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 12, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II stressed the need to lay the foundations «for the moral and material reconstruction» of war-torn Colombia, when he met President Álvaro Uribe in audience.

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The Pope called today for the «re-establishment of a just, solidaristic, responsible and peaceful society» in Colombia, which has been at war with leftist rebels for 40 years.

The Holy Father expressed the hope that Colombians will make progress «toward genuine social peace, rejecting any form of violence and generating new ways of coexistence on the sure and firm path of justice,» and promoting «unity, fraternity and respect from all corners of the nation.»

The decades-old conflict between the government and leftist guerrilla groups has resulted in 300,000 deaths.

«I am pleased by the existing collaboration between the Church and the authorities of your country,» said the Pope, reading his address in Spanish in a clear voice.

The Church has paid a high price in blood for its work of evangelization and negotiation. Over the past 10 years, at least 57 Catholic representatives, including bishops, priests, women religious, and seminarians, have been killed in Colombia.

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