Mounting rebellion in the troubled Roman Catholic Church strained the “Bond of Love” theme of last month’s International Eucharistic Congress in Colombia. Here Paul VI made the first papal visit ever to Latin America, which in name at least is overwhelmingly Catholic. His visit to the congress was also the first South American event beamed by satellite to U. S. and European color TV sets.
The Pope got a tumultuous, unparalleled reception in Bogotá as three million pilgrims and citizens waved white handkerchiefs and shouted “Viva El Papa.” They flocked to his seven public appearances and lined the streets as the Pope passed, often standing in an open car.
The Pope called his fifty-six hours on Colombian soil he had knelt to bless and kiss “intense and unforgettable.”
Order generally prevailed, none of the feared incidents materialized, and the crime rate actually dropped as much of the nation enjoyed a virtual three-day holiday. But the excited throngs gave thousands of police and soldiers some bad moments. The worst was in the cathedral, where 3,000 priests awaited the Pope’s arrival. His address could hardly be heard for the noise of the ecstatic clerics, and when he left for the adjoining archbishop’s palace he was mobbed by priests who were shoving, even fighting, to get near him. The Pope looked terrified during the four minutes before guards opened a path. In the Plaza Bolivar outside, the crowd waiting for papal blessing was so thick and emotion so high that 750 persons fainted.
In his nineteen speeches the Pope balanced carrot with stick. As he had wanted, he met with the poor of the city. Quoting his encyclical “Populorum Progressio,” he called for more equal distribution of wealth and gave qualified approval to distribution ...1
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