Pope Francis wanted to provide tailwind for the reconciliation process during his visit to Colombia. Adveniat executive director Father Michael Heinz hopes the visit will continue to bear positive fruit in the future.
Interviewer: What was it like, your meeting with the Pope??
Father Michael Heinz (Executive Director of the Catholic Latin America relief organization Adveniat in Germany): It was very emotional. I was present both in Villavicencio, when the Pope very strongly encouraged the process of reconciliation, and the 6.He also visited a project in Cartagena that is also supported by the Latin American relief organization Adveniat.
Interviewer: This is the project that they have been supporting for a long time is called "Talitha Kum" in Cartagena. What is this about?
Father Heinz: Talitha Kum is from the Bible. This is the part where Jesus says: "Talitha Kum. Girl I tell you, stand up and rise up."In the project of the Archdiocese of Cartagena, work is done with girls and adolescents who have either fallen into prostitution or whose mothers work in prostitution or who have suffered rape and sexual violence in their lives. It was a very beautiful encounter when the pope blessed the girls.
Interviewer: Why did the pope look at this project of all things?
Father Heinz: The pope always visits projects for people on the margins of society during his travels. It's sort of a common thread in his travels. And since Cartagena is a city where the contrasts between the tourist metropolis and poverty are quite great, he also asked to visit a project here. The archbishop then suggested the Talitha Kum project to him and we are happy and proud that it is a project that is also co-sponsored by Adveniat.
Interviewer: How close were you to Pope Francis then? Did you have the opportunity to speak with him directly?
Father Heinz: I did not have the opportunity to speak with him this time. But I was very close to the altar at both services – in Cartagena as well as in Villavicencio; about two to three meters away, next to the bishops. But I did not bother to talk to him, as I will have the opportunity on 19. September to be able to speak with him personally at an audience. Then, of course, I'll take him up on Latin America as well.
Interviewer: So they were at least close enough to see his black eye?
Father Heinz: Yes, that's what happened on Sunday on the way back from San Francisco when he bumped into the Popemobile. But he really got off lightly in the truest sense of the word. The eye was still a bit swollen, but it looked much better in the afternoon. After all, he himself said it was no big deal.
Interviewer: Francis is expected back in Rome today. What is your assessment of this visit, which was primarily intended to strengthen the peace and reconciliation process in this country??
Father Heinz: These were his common thread and his main characteristic in his sermons. Time and again, the theme of "forgiveness and reconciliation" came up with him. He really repeated it and put it to the heart of all people. The most emotional encounter in this context was with the 6.000 victims in Villavicencio. There he heard the testimony of four people who were in the warring groups. These people have found comfort and a new life in reconciliation and through forgiveness. We hope that this message has not only reached the people during these four days, but will now continue in the long run, so that this peace process will continue to bear positive fruit in the years to come.
The interview was conducted by Tobias Fricke.