Pope Francis and the Colombian Catholic Church have waited long to promote peace in Colombia while neglecting to acknowledge the religious institution’s role in the violence.
Ever since his arrival, Pope Francis has been uttering platitudes in support of peace and reconciliation in the country that’s been devastated be decades of war.
Those favorable of peace would be happy with this support, considering the far-reaching influence of the Catholic faith in the average Colombian household.
However, after years of shunning peace talks and decades of ambiguous moral authority in one of the world’s most senseless wars, the pope’s message has lost credibility and may have only superficial effect on society.
More importantly, the church has yet to acknowledge its own members’ sometimes dubious role in the conflict and the preceding period of La Violencia, when fascistic clergy had no problem claiming “killing liberals is no sin.”
A priest who will be beatified by the pope for being “martyred” on the second day of La Violencia in 1948, was one of the strongest advocates of killing historic presidential candidate Jorge Eliecer Gaitan the day before his own death.
In the almost 70 years that followed the church has, at best, failed to unite Colombian society in spite of its one common element, the Catholic faith. The church itself has been too internally divided for that.
When progressive Catholics earlier this week held a ceremony in which they asked conflict victims forgiveness for the Catholic faith’s role in the armed conflict and political violence, they did so without a single Episcopal or Vatican representative.
We want to ask for forgiveness, first of all to God, whose name and message we have dishonored and defiled, and next to all the victims of that violence, albeit in many cases only to their memory since they have now been eliminated.
1000 signatures for peace
Acknowledging the church’s ambiguous moral authority in Colombia is a bridge too far for the institution that is already struggling to deal with protestants, secularists and atheists.
While civilian society is expected to reconcile, the Church continues to believe it is above such mundane acts. “The church does not sin,” the Manizales branch said in protest of its sentence to repair a child sexual abuse victim.
The truth is, however, that the self-proclaimed representative of God on earth did align with Colombian fascists in the 1940s, and that many members of the institution have used the name of their heavenly father to justify the unjustifiable or even bless the unforgivable.
The faith many have that Colombia will find peace after so many decades of violence and war is a mundane one, not a divine one.
The struggle for peace is not a religious, but a social issue that must ultimately unite peace-loving citizens disregarding faith or political conviction. The state is not the only institution that has lost the credibility to effectively help Colombia leave behind its extremely violent past.