BOGOTA, Colombia — The latest on Pope Francis’ visit to Colombia (all times local):
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has pledged to Pope Francis that Colombia will keep its doors open to thousands of Venezuelan exiles even as it works to find a political solution to its neighbor’s crisis.
Santos says he told the pope in their final encounter Sunday that “Colombia will always be a welcoming land.”
The president says he also gave Francis a pin of a symbolic peace dove that Santos has worn since the start of negotiations with leftist rebels several years ago.
The pope headed back to Rome after a five-day visit during which Francis encouraged Colombians to reconcile under the peace deal signed last year.
Pope Francis has left Colombia after an emotional farewell in which he was serenaded by the lively, traditional rhythms of the country*s Carnival.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was on hand in Cartagena on Sunday to accompany Francis on the red carpet to the airliner that is carrying him to Rome.
Wrapping up his five-day visit, the pope made a final appeal to Colombians to reconcile under the peace deal signed last year between the government and the biggest rebel group aimed at ending to end Latin America’s longest-running conflict.
Pope Francis is calling for an end to political violence in Venezuela and protection for the poor hurt by the nation’s “grave” economic crisis.
The message of solidarity came at a visit to the St. Peter Claver church in Cartagena that was the final stop on his five-day visit to Colombia
The pope called for Venezuelans “to reject all types of political violence and to find a solution to the grave crisis that it is affecting especially the poorest and most disadvantage members of society.”
The large community of Venezuelan exiles in Colombia had been pushing Francis to make a strong statement against President Nicolas Maduro.
Francis met during the visit with bishops from Venezuela who have referred to Maduro as a dictator. But he largely avoided the strong tone of recent Vatican statements that have called on Maduro to respect human rights and withdraw plans to rewrite Venezuela’s constitution.
Pope Francis is denouncing human trafficking and the current-day slave trade as he pays his respects to a 17th century Jesuit missionary who ministered to hundreds of thousands of African slaves who arrived in the port of Cartagena to be sold during Spanish colonial times.
Francis praised St. Peter Claver as he arrived in Cartagena on the final day of his Colombia trip Sunday. He was sporting a bruised, black eye after banging his head on his popemobile when it stopped short amid swarms of well-wishers.
Carrying on with his agenda, Francis praised Claver for recognizing the inherent dignity of slaves, saying he was “austere and charitable to the point of heroism.”
Francis said the legacy of the Spanish priest should serve as a model for the Catholic Church today to “promote the dignity of all our brothers and sisters, particularly the poor and the excluded of society, those who are abandoned, immigrants and those who suffer violence and human trafficking.”
Pope Francis has suffered a bruise to his left cheek that resulted in some blood dripping onto his white cassock.
Francis apparently knocked his head as he was travelling in the popemobile upon arriving in the city of Cartagena for the last day of his Colombia trip.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke says: “The pope is fine” but has “a bruise on his cheekbone and eyebrow.”
Burke says the pope hit himself on the popemobile and is receiving ice treatment.
The pope continued greeting thousands of people along the streets of Cartagena’s San Francisco neighborhood, without any problems.
Pope Francis is wrapping up his Colombia trip with a deeply personal final day honoring St. Peter Claver, a fellow Jesuit who ministered to thousands of African slaves who passed through the port of Cartagena during Spanish colonial times.