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Colombia has been the battleground of an undeclared civil war for more than 50 years. The conflict has involved also several guerrilla groups, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The Colombian government and FARC rebels are currently holding peace talks in Havana. The Church promotes reconciliation and peace and the process of reparation for the victims of the conflict.

The conflict originates from the violent tensions which date back to 1948 between the two traditional political parties of Colombia, the Liberal and Conservative parties, which warred against one another for nearly 10 years. In 1956, exhausted from nearly a decade of bloody rivalry, the Liberals and the Conservatives joined forces to create a new political coalition called the National Front. The power sharing agreement came at the expense of political representation of the lower class.
Throughout the decades of violence Colombia went through, the Church has always supported the political and diplomatic means employed to bolster the peace process. The Church has also outlined some necessary steps to be made in order to achieve genuine and lasting peace, such as decreasing military spending, increasing humanitarian aid, and enhancing the defence and promotion of fundamental human rights. Monsignor Luis Augusto Castro, the new President of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, has unfailingly supported the process for the implementation of permanent national peace policy. He is 72 now and served as bishop in the conflict area of San Vicente del Caguan. He did outstanding work in maintaining permanent contact with the main insurgent organizations in order to promote discussions and negotiations which could lead to peace. On several occasions, however, he declared himself to be sceptical about rapid solutions, which might favour impunity, and emphasized the importance of national unity.

The Church has also tackled the post-conflict scenario. All representatives of the Church agree that Colombians must forgive if they really want a lasting peace. People to conciliate and live in peace need to forgive each other. Only through forgiveness, can Colombians guarantee the benefits of stable peace to future generations. Lasting peace implies respect for life and for differences, and dialogue to solve problems peacefully.

Pope Francis Missionary Intention for July

"That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society." Let us pray.

A UN-Habitat document reports that Latin America has the largest gap between those who are wealthy and those who are poor. Brazil heads the list and is closely followed by Mexico and Argentina.

Yet Latin America is the most Catholic continent in the world. How can this be? Apparently, as is the case everywhere, believers don't take the Gospel and the Church's teaching seriously enough to affect their actions outside of church. Yet change is possible. Last year, on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose appearance in 1531 in Mexico led to the largest conversion in history, Pope Francis spoke of the hope that is given when people turn to God.

He said: "Latin America is the 'continent of hope'! For we expect from it new models of development, which link Christian tradition to civil progress, justice and equity to reconciliation, scientific and technological development to human wisdom, fruitful suffering to hopeful joy."

Then, finishing his homily he said: "We place these hopes on the altar as a gift pleasing to God. Imploring his forgiveness and trusting in his mercy, we celebrate the sacrifice and Paschal victory of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one Lord. He calls us to live the true life, a more human life, to live together as children and brothers."
With each Morning Offering we join ourselves to the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the greatest power for change that the world has ever known. We offer ourselves this month for the poor in Latin America.

2 Corinthians 8: 1-15 Your surplus at the present time should supply their needs.

Pope Francis General Intention for July

"That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity." Let us pray.
This month's prayer intention reminds us that the ultimate goal of politics - despite what is often said - is justice and charity.

Human beings are social beings. The Catechism states: "The human person needs to live in society. Society is not for him an extraneous addition but a requirement of his nature" (#1879). As a result we need laws and officials to enforce those laws and judges to interpret the laws and settle conflicts. We simply cannot do without such "public servants," and in a democracy we exercise the right and responsibility of electing them.

However, given that human nature is weak, we tend to favour our own interests. We elect officials who will give us what we want, and they in turn often make decisions based on what will get them re-elected. The challenge is for everyone to work together for the common good, a key element of the Church's social doctrine.
In The Joy of the Gospel Pope Francis wrote: "Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good."

Charity concerns not only how we treat each individual but the effects our decisions have on our neighbours near and far. As we pray for our political leaders, that they may work for the common good of all and especially the most vulnerable members of society, we commit ourselves to choices in daily life and in the voting booth that will embody our own concern for the common good.

1 Timothy 2: 1-6 I ask that prayers, supplications, and petitions be offered for all in authority.

Prayer Intention of the Institute for July

"That our pastoral service may show to the poor that God is truly on their side and that the attention of the larger Christian community is directed specifically at them. Lord hear us."

Prayer of the Month

Lord God, give us more politicians capable of sincere and effective dialogue aimed at healing the deepest roots-and not simply the appearances-of the evils in our world! I beg you, Lord, to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor! Open their minds to you, O God, and inspire their plans. Amen

--Adapted from The Joy of the Gospel (Art. 205)

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