On his 13-hour flight to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay — marking Pope Francis’ ninth international apostolic trip — he sent Colombia and Venezuela messages of peace.
As is customary for any apostolic visit, the Holy Father sent telegrams to the nation’s which his flight would pass, including Italy, Spain, Portugal, Colombia and Venezuela.
In his messages, the Pope expressed his affection and closeness to the nations’ peoples, as well as calling for peaceful coexistence, particularly in the two Latin American nations plagued by conflict.
Studies show that nearly a quarter of a million Colombians have been killed in the nation’s internal conflict, which began some 50 years ago and resulted from its political, social, and economic situation. Currently, the nation’s government is in talks with the guerilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC.
In his message to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon, the Pope wrote: “As I fly over Colombian territory to begin my pastoral visits to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, I am pleased to send warm greetings to Your Excellency, to reiterate my closeness and affection for the Colombian people.”
To this, Francis added, “I ask the Lord abundant graces to make progress in human and spiritual values that characterize them, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence, wishing at the same time increasing prosperity.”
To the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, the Pope again expressed his closeness to the Venezuelan people, adding his prayers for the “abundant grace to help you progress more and more in solidarity and peaceful coexistence.”
In Venezuela, the political crisis has deepened and has led to high levels of civil violence, inflation, and chronic shortages of goods. With many blaming economic policies and corruption, there have been numerous protests, political demonstrations, and civil insurrection.
The A330 Alitalia plane carrying the Holy Father took off from Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport at 9:15 a.m. local time on Sunday and arrived at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Ecuador about 3 p.m. local time.