Colombia to Mark 25 Years Since John Paul II's Visit

Will Reflect on Pontiff’s Contribution to Nation

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 27, 2011 ( The Colombian Embassy to the Holy See is organizing an academic conference this spring to mark the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s visit to the nation.

The event, titled «John Paul II and His Mark on Colombia: 25 Years Later,» will gather representatives of Colombian universities and social foundations to reflect on the Pontiff’s visit, and how it affected how the nation has addressed topics such as the dignity of the human person, the family, education, youth, justice and communication.

The Colombian embassy confirmed that President Juan Manuel Santos will open the conference, which will take place March 3, and that former president Belisario Betancur, who greeted the Pontiff upon his arrival in Bogota, will also attend.

John Paul II visited Colombian from July 1-7, 1986. During his visit he called for the building of a «civilization of love,» in which «the fundamental rights of the person, civil liberties and social rights […] would be guarded and preserved.»


César Mauricio Velásquez Ossa, the Colombian ambassador to the Holy See, explained that «John Paul II’s beatification and the celebration of the 25 years since his visit to Colombia has awakened greater admiration and affection.»

«In the mail to the Embassy in Rome expressions have arrived of admiration and affectionate memories of many persons,» he revealed. «A young woman said that the day that John Paul arrived in Colombia she began to walk. A journalist recalled that during the Pope’s visit, from July 1-7, the rate of violence in the country decreased, and even the guerrillas of the time decreed a seven-day truce. Other persons said that thanks to his visit they returned to Mass and Confession.»

Velásquez Ossa recalled in a statement sent to ZENIT that «there is no saint who has not served others. Holiness is identity with Christ, example of service. John Paul II struggled to imitate him and that is why he gave himself up to the last minute of life. He is an example of loyalty, fortitude and joy. He is a great of all the social sciences. A faithful servant who never ceased to be an exemplary priest.»

«Those who want to torpedo or cast doubt on John Paul II’s beatification do not know the details of history. It was precisely the Pope who on learning of evil behavior censured and condemned it. He was never silent before crime within or outside of the Church. It was he, with Benedict XVI, who initiated the purification of the conscience facing the world,» he added.

«Among the best things in life is to have a holy friend,» Velásquez Ossa concluded. «I feel I am a friend of John Paul II, and it is significant that the contemporary saints moved about this life amid the same difficulties, temptations, and problems we experience. And in the midst of all this, they reached the goal.»

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