It will be the Holy Father's first apostolic visit to Columbia, taking place September 6–11. He will be visiting the cities of Bogotá, Villavicencio, Medellín and Cartagena.
Pope Francis will enact the Rite of Beatification and preside over an open-air Holy Mass in the city of Villavicencio, on September 8, the feast of the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, when Bp. Jesus Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve of Arauca and Fr. Pedro Ramirez Ramos will be beatified.
Bishop Jaramillo (1916–1989) was born in Columbia and served as the bishop of Arauca, a city near the border of Venezuela. He was from the Xaverian Missionaries of Yarumal and strongly opposed the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), or the National Liberation Army.
Jaramillo condemned their movement and brutality, never ceasing to preach the word of God. He attempted to be the light in the darkness that plagued his homeland. Despite the drug trafficking, smuggling and violence that was out of control, he continued to call them to conversion. He was kidnapped and tortured in 1989, and his body was found the next day with four bullets to the head.
Father Pedro Ramirez (1899–1948) was confronted years earlier with similar conditions. He was also a native to Columbia, and at the age of 31, in 1931, he was ordained a priest. He was assigned to be the first parish priest of Chaparral. He had a deep love for God and the faithful under his care. In 1934 he was moved to Cunday, and in 1943, he would be the parish priest of Fresno. Being moved as the parish priest throughout four cities, his last assignment was Armero.
At the start of the Colombian civil war in 1948, tensions were high. Opposed to his outspoken virtue and conservatism, the guerrilla forces preyed on him as he sought refuge in his parish church. Though his faithful wanted to help him escape, he refused to flee and abandon the people and leave them to imminent danger.
His adversaries tore through the church doors, seized him and accused him of hiding weapons in the nearby convent. They killed him and dragged him through the city, preventing the faithful from getting near his body. When authorities from a neighboring village intervened 10 days later, he was given a Christian burial.
To this day, Fr. Pedro is well-known in Colombia as "the martyr of Armero."
The ELN, Columbia's second largest guerrilla group, is currently holding peace negotiations in Ecuador. The largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, recently signed a peace agreement with the Columbian government. Pope Francis' visit is seen as a pastoral one but is widely expected to further cement the peace accords aimed at putting an end to the decades of conflict and violence.
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