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Witness of Colombian people a wealth for the church, pope says


  • Pope Francis embraces a young woman while meeting the disabled during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 13. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • Pope Francis touches his head as he arrives for his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 13. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • Tony Blair, former prime minister of Great Britain, waves after meeting Pope Francis at his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 13. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • Pope Francis poses with a group in traditional attire during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 13. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • Pope Francis greets a young woman at his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 13. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • Pope Francis presents a gift to Tony Blair, former prime minister of Great Britain, during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 13. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Colombia's long and arduous path toward reconciliation and a lasting peace after nearly half a century of war is a sign of hope for all Christians, Pope Francis said.

Speaking to pilgrims Sept. 13 at his weekly general audience, the pope said the motto of his visit Sept. 6-10 -- "Demos el primer paso" ("Let's take the first step") -- referred to the process of reconciliation that, while difficult, is "underway with the help of God."

"With my visit, I wanted to bless the efforts of that people, confirm them in faith and hope and receive their witness, which is a wealth for my ministry and for the whole church," the pope said.

Although still sporting a black eye after a minor accident during his stay in Cartagena, the pope was in good spirits, greeting pilgrims and kissing babies around St. Peter's Square.

Among those present at the audience was former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who briefly greeted Pope Francis at the end of the general audience.

Recalling Colombia's tragic 52-year armed conflict, which was responsible for the deaths of more than 220,000 people, the pope said that while the country was torn apart, its strong Christian roots "constituted a guarantee of peace, the solid foundation of its reconstruction and the lifeblood of its invincible hope."

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