Pope Francis black eye caused by popemobile stopping short to avoid Colombia crowd in Cartagena

CARTAGENA, Colombia — Pope Francis wrapped up his Colombia trip Sunday by honoring a fellow Jesuit who ministered to African slaves and urging Colombians today to follow his lead in working for a more peaceful future.

Francis’ visit to Cartagena got off to a rocky start when he bonked his head on his popemobile when it stopped short amid swarms of well-wishers. Francis, who had only a hip-high bar to hold onto, lost his balance and suffered a bruised, black left eye and a cut on his eyebrow that dripped blood onto his white cassock.

The cut was quickly bandaged with a butterfly patch and Francis carried on without incident with his program, sporting a shiner that got increasingly dark as the day wore on.

The highlight of the day was a very personal stop for the Jesuit pope: He prayed at the tomb of St. Peter Claver, the 17th century missionary who ministered to hundreds of thousands of African slaves who were brought through Cartagena’s port during Spanish colonial times to be sold.

Pope Francis greets faithful from his popemobile in Cartagena, Colombia, September 10, 2017. Osservatore Romano/Handout via

OSSERVATORE ROMANO/REUTERS

Francis, known for his own simple and austere style, said Claver was “austere and charitable to the point of heroism.”

Claver, the self-described “slave of the slaves forever,” has been revered by Jesuits, popes and human rights campaigners for centuries for having insisted on recognizing the inherent dignity of slaves, treating them as children of God when others considered them mere merchandise to be bought and sold.

Francis said the legacy of the Spanish priest should serve as a model for the Catholic Church today to “promote the dignity of all our brothers and sisters, particularly the poor and the excluded of society, those who are abandoned, immigrants and those who suffer violence and human trafficking.”

And he cited Claver’s courageous and controversial example in urging Colombians to take a courageous first step to reconcile with one another after a half-century of armed conflict.

“Colombia, your brothers and sisters need you. Go out to meet them. Bring them the embrace of peace, free of all violence.

“Be slaves of peace forever,” he said in a final appeal at the end of Mass in Cartagena’s port.

It was a final appeal to Colombians to overcome divisions that linger after the government last year reached a peace deal…

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