MEDELLIN, Colombia – Pope Francis met Saturday with nearly 14,000 Colombian priests, religious and seminarians and their families at the La Macarena events center in Medellin, warning them about how easy it is to fall into corruption and stressing the need to work with a true sense of vocation.
“Like I’ve said on other occasions, the devil enters through the pocket ... We all have to be alert because the corruption in the men and women who are in the church begins like that, little by little, and takes root in the heart and ends up distancing God from one’s life,” he said.
Quoting from scripture, he said it was impossible to serve both God and money and warned against “using our religious condition and the goodness of our people to be served and obtain material benefits.”
Francis also instructed his audience to flee from “situations, lifestyles and options that show the signs of dryness and death.”
The “poison of lies, concealment, manipulation and the abuse of the people of God, the vulnerable and especially the elderly and children can never have a place in our community; they are branches that went dry and which God orders us to cut,” he said.
During the gathering, he also recalled the many lives destroyed by the narcotics trade in Medellin, which became notorious for drug violence in the 1980s during the heyday of Pablo Escobar.
“I invite you to ... ask forgiveness for those who destroyed the dreams of so many young people. Ask the Lord to change their hearts,” the pontiff said.
Earlier Saturday, more than 1 million faithful braved long lines and a torrential downpour to attend an open-air Mass that Pope Francis celebrated Saturday at Medellin’s Olaya Herrera airport.
Francis dedicated his homily to “discipleship,” the way in which the Catholic faithful should follow Jesus.
“In Colombia, there are so many situations that demand of disciples the adoption of the lifestyle of Jesus, particularly love converted into acts of non-violence, reconciliation and peace,” he said in Colombia’s second city, where there is a great deal of opposition to the peace agreement that President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration signed with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group last year.
Also Saturday, the pope visited a home that cares for abandoned children.
On Saturday evening, he traveled back to Bogota, where his six-day stay in Colombia began.
The pontiff will conclude his stay on Sunday with a visit to the Caribbean city of Cartagena.