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Welcome Speech by the Chairman of the German Conference of Bishops to the meeting on a Peace Initiative for Colombia held on 29/06/1998 in Mainz


I am delighted to welcome you this morning to the Bishop’s House in Mainz. I thank you for coming, and do so also in the name of the chairman of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference, who unfortunately cannot be here today. He is, however, represented by the secretary-general of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference Mons. Martínez, and so, with Father Dr. Langendörfer, both the Colombian and the German Bishop’s Conferences welcome you most warmly.

I am happy to be able to call upon the experience of Bishop Emil Stehle, formerly priest in Bogota and since 1987 Bishop in Santo Domingo de los Colorados in Ecuador, who is with us today. I would also like to thank all those who have been involved in the talks in the longer term, not least Herr and Frau Mauss and their companion.

Above all, I am delighted to be able to welcome our honoured guests from Colombia. Your presence proves your willingness to talk together about the peace that the people in your country are so much hoping for. You have come here to us so that, together, we can find a way out of your country’s crisis. To you, as representatives of the Consejo Nacionál para la Paz and of the ELN, I offer a special welcome. You have resolved to bring together representatives of the different sectors of Colombian society in a peace initiative and to hold talks in which as many as possible should be encouraged to participate.

Particular thanks are due to you for yesterday’s adoption of a “Mainz Declaration” with its four-point programme. Archbishop Giraldo and I are grateful that you managed to achieve such a result in the relatively short time. If you wish to carry on these talks in Germany, we would like, given the external conditions, to offer our assistance by taking on some of the organisational and coordinating tasks. With regard then to the framework for these talks, the Bishops’ Conferences would like to do everything possible to facilitate the discussions and negotiations. If we can make a useful contribution, we will gladly continue to do our utmost to help facilitate the outer preparation.
On behalf, too, of the Bishops of Colombia and Germany, and certainly on behalf of very many people in Colombia, I thank you for taking this important first step for peace. And so, on that note, I look forward to the coming talks and hope that they will continue to prove fruitful here in my house also.

I wish a comfortable flight to the gentlemen who are returning to Colombia. To those gentlemen who are to remain here in Germany until the 12th of July, I wish you a pleasant and restful stay. It would constitute a very important further step, were we to find ourselves joined here in Mainz by other ladies and gentlemen from the various sectors of Colombian society on the 12th of July.

Karl Lehmann


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