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Pope pleads from Villavicencio: "Colombia, let yourself be reconciled"

The Encounter for National Reconciliation was the most anticipated moment of Pope Francis' visit to Colombia.

After an artistic representation of Psalm 85, the psalm praying for peace and justice, the 6,000 present listened to the testimony of both victims of Colombian conflict and repentant aggressors.

Pastor Mira received a standing ovation after sharing her chilling story: she forgave and took care of her father's murderer, when he was old and abandoned.

Years later, one of her daughters disappeared and she found her corpse 7 years later. That was not all. In 2005, a paramilitary group murdered her youngest son.

"Three days after I buried him, I helped a wounded young man and laid him in the same bed that had belonged to Jorge Aníbal. On leaving the house, the young man saw my son's photos and reacted by telling me that he was one of his murderers and how they had tortured him before killing him. I thank God that, with the help of Mama Mary, she gave me the strength to serve him without hurting him, despite my inexpressible pain."

The woman left one of her most precious possessions with the remains of the Christ of Bojayá: the shirt that her missing daughter had given her son, who years later was killed. It was a gesture that stood out for Pope Francis. 

"It is the crucified Christ of Bojayá who gave you that strength to forgive and to love, and to help you see in the shirt that your daughter, Sandra Paola, gave to your son, Jorge Aníbal, not only the memory of their deaths, but the hope that peace will definitely triumph in Colombia. Thank you. Thank you."

The Christ of Bojayá referred to by Pope Francis was the mutilated image that was present at the encounter.

The image experienced a massacre in 2012 and became the symbol of the Colombian conflict. The parish where he was had been hit with a cylinder bomb that killed almost a hundred people who took refuge inside it, to flee clashes between paramilitaries and FARC. 

During his speech, the pope said that mercy and justice are compatible and that the other three people who spoke alongside Pastora, including a former FARC representative, are an example of being able to have a fresh start and new beginning.

"We have to break the chain that is presented as inescapable, and doing that is only possible with forgiveness and concrete reconciliation. Colombia, open your heart as God's people and let yourself be reconciled."

At the end, the pope and all the people in attendance prayed for peace and Pope Francis went to the Cross of National Reconciliation that remembers the thousands of victims who've fallen due to violence in recent decades.