Pope's Address to Ambassador From Colombia

«Look With Serenity and Hope to the Approaching Future»

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience Colombia’s new ambassador to the Holy See, César Mauricio Velásquez Ossa.
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Mr. Ambassador:
1. On presenting the letters of credence which accredit you as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Colombia to the Holy See, it gives me profound pleasure to give you my cordial welcome and, reiterating the heartfelt affection I profess for the beloved children of your homeland, to wish you a fruitful service in carrying out the mission your government has entrusted to you. I am also grateful for the words you addressed to me, as well as the sentiments you expressed on behalf of the president of the republic, Doctor Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, who recently assumed the high responsibility of leading that beloved nation on the paths of progress in justice, sheltered by absolute respect for the basic rights of the person and in constant progress toward ever more noble and lofty aims, both human as well as spiritual. I beg you to give him my best wishes for peace and well being, as well as the assurance of my prayer for the fruitful exercise of such important work.
2. Your Excellency’s presence and kind words bring me again the affection and devotion of a people known for its unblemished human and Christian virtues, its deep Catholic roots that, even in the mist of arduous situations of different sorts, has been able to maintain its faith in God and its firm will to cultivate and practice the values of the Gospel, inexhaustible source of energy and inspiration to be committed to the noblest causes.
3. Mr. Ambassador, you begin your delicate assignment to the Holy See at a moment of particular importance for Colombia. In fact, taking place this year is the commemoration of the bicentenary of the start of the process that led to the independence and the Constitution of the republic. I am certain that this significant anniversary will be a singular occasion to accept the lessons that history furnishes, to intensify initiatives and measures that consolidate security, peace, harmony and the integral development of all its citizens and to look with serenity and hope to the approaching future. Of fundamental importance on this path is the agreement of all, so that the most profound yearnings and projects of the Colombian people will increasingly build a happy and promising reality.
4. Not only during these two centuries, but also since the dawn of the arrival of the Spanish in America, the Catholic Church has been present in each of the stages of the historical evolution of your country, always carrying out a primordial and decisive role. In fact, the abnegated work of so many bishops, presbyters, religious and laity has left indelible imprints in the most varied ambits in the molding of your homeland, such as culture, art, health, social coexistence and the building of peace. It is a spiritual patrimony that has germinated in the course of the years and in all corners of Colombia in innumerable and fruitful human, spiritual and material realizations. These efforts, not exempt from sacrifices and adversities cannot be ignored. It is worthwhile to safeguard them as valuable heritage and to develop them as a beneficial proposal for the whole nation. To this effect, and faithful to the task received from the Lord, the Church will continue, in the context of the bicentenary, to give the best of herself to the Colombian people, being solidaristic in her aspiration to improve and help all from the mission proper to her. In this connection, in the message I addressed on June 30, 2008, to the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, on the occasion of the centenary of its foundation, I had the opportunity to urge the bishops so that, with farsightedness and paying heed to the eloquent testimony of apostolic zeal of the pastors who preceded them, they continue «responding with solicitous dedication, firm faith and renewed ardor to the challenges that are presented to the Church in your homeland,» serving «all with enthusiasm, especially the least favored, taking to them a message of peace, justice and reconciliation.»
In this exciting task, the Church in Colombia does not ask for any privilege.  She only wishes to be able to serve the faithful and all those who open to her the door of their heart, with an outstretched hand, always willing to strengthen everything that promotes the education of the new generations, care of the sick and the elderly, respect for the indigenous populations and their legitimate traditions, the eradication of poverty, drug-trafficking and corruption, care of prisoners, the displaced, emigrants and laborers, as well as care of needy families. In short, it is about continuing to offer loyal collaboration for the integral growth of the communities in which pastors, religious and faithful carry our their service, moved only by the needs that spring from their priestly ordination, their religious congregation or their Christian vocation.  
5. In this framework of mutual cooperation and cordial relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Colombia, which this year celebrates its 165th anniversary, I wish to manifest again the concern the Church has in protecting and fomenting the inviolable dignity of the human person, for whom it is essential that the juridical ordering respect the natural law in essential areas such as the safeguarding of human life, from conception until its natural end; the right to be born and to live in a family founded on marriage between a man and a woman and the right of parents to have their children receive an education in keeping with their own moral criteria or beliefs. All of them are irreplaceable pillars in the construction of a society truly worthy of man and of the values that are inseparable to him.
6. In this solemn meeting with Your Excellency, I also wish to manifest my spiritual closeness and assure my prayer for those in Colombia who have been unjustly and cruelly deprived on their liberty. I also pray for their families and, in general, for the victims of violence in all its forms, begging God to put an end to so much suffering, and that all Colombians may be able to live reconciled and in peace in that blessed land, so filled with natural resources, beautiful valleys and soaring mountains, with large rivers and picturesque landscapes, which it is necessary to preserve as a magnificent gift of God.
7. Mr. Ambassador, on concluding my words, I reiterate my best wishes for the mission you undertake today, in which you will find continually the hospitality and support of my collaborators. While invoking the maternal intercession of Our Lady of Chiquinquira on Your Excellency and the members of that Diplomatic Mission, on the government and the beloved Colombian people, I pray to the Almighty that your homeland will be at the forefront in service of the common good and fraternity between all men, and that it will encourage Colombians to walk without hesitation on the paths of mutual understanding and solidarity.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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