Pope recalls ‘painful memory’ of narco wars
MEDELLIN, Colombia - ReutersPope Francis on Sept. 9 visited Medellin, epicenter of Colombia’s narco wars of the 1980s and asked that God convert the hearts of the “drug assassins” who cut short so many young lives.
On his penultimate day in Colombia, Francis flew to Medellin, the city northwest of the capital that was once notorious as the stomping grounds of drug lord Pablo Escobar.
In unscripted comments at the last event of the day, he said he could not leave without mentioning the “painful memory” of “so many young lives truncated, discarded, destroyed.”
He asked his listeners to ask God “for forgiveness for those who destroyed the dreams of so many young people. Ask the Lord to convert their hearts, ask for an end to this defeat of young humanity.”
The Medellin that Francis visited is a city transformed since his predecessor Pope John Paul visited in 1986.
It was then rife with violence among cartels, paramilitary groups and guerrillas that raged in the poor “comuna” neighborhoods on its outskirts.
The city is now heralded as a model of urban development. It has installed cable cars up the steep Andean slopes that surround it to save working-class residents a punishing climb, and it has built libraries in sections that were once sites of gun battles.
Feared drug trafficker Escobar, Medellin’s most infamous resident, was gunned down in the city in a U.S.-backed operation in 1993. He was recently resurrected as a character in the popular Netflix series “Narcos.”
At the start of the day, Francis said a Mass where he urged Colombians to help their fellow citizens who hunger for food, dignity and God, pressing his appeal for the South American country to tackle social inequality.