Pope Assures Solidarity With Colombian Flood Victims

Nation Marks Day of Prayer for Victims of Violence

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 22, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is promising his prayer and solidarity for victims of Colombia’s rainy season, which has caused at least 85 deaths and is threatening vast regions of the nation.

The Pope expressed his «grief and concern» in a note sent Thursday to the Colombian ambassador to the Holy See, César Mauricio Velásquez.

«I accompany with my prayers all the victims and relatives of those who are suffering this tragedy. I pray that the appeals to solidarity made by the president of that beloved nation will be heard,» the Holy Father said.

He added his wish that «all those affected by the rains of recent days feel my closeness, prayer and help.» He also expressed his encouragement for «those who are on the front line of the aid and rescue operations to maintain their commitment to help the destitute.»

Colombia is affected each year by a rainy season and accompanying land slides that take a heavy toll on the country. In 2010, the season was one of the deadliest in the last several decades. The rains killed 174 persons, left 225 wounded and 19 others missing, while 1.5 million were left homeless.

In promising to aid the victims of this year’s disaster, the Colombian president noted that already the Magdalena River «is the highest [it’s been] in all of history.»

Day of prayer

Also in Colombia, today is being marked as a Day of Prayer for Victims of Violence. Last Sunday, the Holy Father called the event an «important initiative» and assured his spiritual participation.

Archbishop Jesús Rubén Salazar Gómez of Bogota focused his Holy Thursday address on this issue.

«It is time to put aside violence, which has caused so many victims in Colombia,» he said. «No more war, no more trampling on human dignity.»

Conflict in the country has been ongoing for a half-century, particularly with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which has been responsible for countless deaths and kidnappings.

«I address those responsible for victimizing [people], Archbishop Salazar Gómez said, «the violent, armed groups and the new criminal bands, calling them to conversion and repentance for the suffering caused to so many compatriots.»

The Episcopal Conference of Colombia called for the day of prayer. On April 6, it was announced by the secretary-general of the bishops’ conference, Auxiliary Bishop Juan Vicente Córdoba of Bucaramanga.

The prelate observed, «Violence, in its various manifestations, has been a constant in the political and social history of our nation. The victims of this tragic phenomenon have been many, but in large part, they have remained invisible and forgotten.»

This Day of Prayer, Bishop Córdoba added, aims to «accompany them on the path of reconciliation and forgiveness.»

«On Good Friday,» he said, «Catholics and all men of good will throughout the country who wish to join our cause, are invited to pray and meditate, in depth, on the suffering of the victims of violence, offering sacrifices and penances, including fasting, as acts of reparation to God, to the victims and to Colombian society.»

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