Pope Francis, his eye bandaged and blackened after an accident in the popemobile, wrapped up his trip to Colombia on Sunday appealing to the country to “untie the knots of violence” after a 50-year civil war.
On the last day of his visit to Colombia, the pontiff was traveling in his special car, with the famous raised platform which enables him to wave to the crowd, in Cartagena when it came to an abrupt halt causing him to hit his head on the bulletproof glass.
The accident left him with a bruised cheekbone, left eye and cut above his left eyebrow which dripped blood onto his white cassock. The cut was swiftly treated with ice and bandaged up and he continued on his journey.
Addressing reporters, a spokesman for the Vatican, Greg Burke, said: “The pope is all right. Ice was put on it and he was treated. He will continue the schedule for his visit with no changes.”
With the bruises on his face clearly visible, the smiling pope continued the trip wearing a bandage over his cut. “I was punched. I’m fine,” he joked afterward.
At the end of the day, when Pope Francis said mass for hundreds of thousands of people in the city’s port area, the bruise had swollen and he had blackened skin under his eye.
The pontiff was in the South American country to appeal for it to “untie the knots of violence” following the government’s controversial peace deal with rebel group Farc which ended 50 years of civil war. Speaking during mass for about 500,000 people in Cartagena’s port area, he said:
“If Colombia wants a stable and lasting peace, it must urgently take a step in this direction, which is that of the common good, of equity, of justice, of respect for human nature and its demands.
“Only if we help to untie the knots of violence, will we unravel the complex threads of disagreements.”
Pope Francis used the trip to urge Colombians deeply polarized by a peace plan to shun vengeance after a bloody 50-year civil war. He also said leaders had to enact laws to end injustice and social inequality that breeds violence.
Cartagena, a top tourist destination famous for its colonial walled ramparts, was the home to Saint Peter Claver, a Spanish priest who ministered to slaves in Colombia in the 1600s, defying Spanish colonial masters who treated them as chattel.
The pope used the occasion to again decry modern slavery and human trafficking and defend the rights of immigrants.
Human rights groups estimate millions of people around the world are victims of human trafficking and forms of modern slavery such as forced labor and prostitution.
“Here in Colombia and in the world, millions of people are still being sold as slaves; they either beg for some expressions of humanity, moments of tenderness, or they flee by sea or land because they have lost everything, primarily their dignity and their rights,” the pope said just before praying before Claver’s relics.
Around 300 Afro-Colombians who receive assistance from the Jesuit religious order, of which the pope is a member, prayed with him in the church. Francis visited the impoverished neighborhood of San Francisco and blessed the cornerstone of a shelter for at-risk Afro-Colombian girls vulnerable to child prostitution, drugs, and violence.
Earlier in the day, Pope Francis said he was praying for the well-being of all countries on the continent but particularly Venezuela, which has been caught up in a social and economic crisis.
“I express my closeness to all the sons and daughters of that beloved nation, as well as to all those who have found a place of welcome here in Colombia,” referring to the tens of thousands of Venezuelans who have crossed the border to find food and medicine.
“From this city, known as the seat of human rights, I appeal for the rejection of all violence in political life and for a solution to the current grave crisis, which affects everyone, particularly the poorest and most disadvantaged of society,” he said.