Pope Francis lost his balance while riding in the Popemobile through a crowd in Cartagena on the final stop of his Colombian tour Sunday, bruising his cheekbone, cutting his eyebrow and getting a swollen, black left eye.
Francis wrapped up his Colombia trip with a deeply personal final day honouring Saint Peter Claver, a fellow Jesuit who ministered to thousands of African slaves who passed through the port of Cartagena during Spanish colonial times.
Francis iced his cheekbone and received a butterfly patch to cover the cut, and continued his popemobile tour without incident.
“I was punched. I’m fine,” he joked afterwards, the bruises on his face clearly visible.
Video images showed the pope hitting the left side of his face against a vertical bar of the Popemobile, a specially designed, open-top vehicle that allows the pontiff to stand and greet the faithful as his motorcade advances.
A few drops of blood were seen on his white cassock and the area around his left eye looked bruised and swollen.
Francis was visiting the poor San Francisco neighbourhood to dedicate new houses for the homeless before paying homage to Claver at the church that bears his name in the city’s historic centre.
Pope hits his cheek on Pope Mobile in Cartagena.. resulting in bruises and bleeding pic.twitter.com/jLPD4oGJeW
— 'Gitmo' Bama (@President1Trump) September 10, 2017
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 recognising the dignity of slaves when others treated them as mere merchandise to be bought and sold.
History’s first Latin American pope has similarly insisted on ministering to society’s most marginal and making them the focus of the Catholic Church’s mission.
He takes special care of the homeless who live around the Vatican, makes regular phone calls to prisoners, brought a dozen Syrian refugees home with him from a Greek refugee camp, and embraces the sick, the maimed and the deformed every chance he gets.
He is to pray at Claver’s tomb on Sunday after laying the foundation for new residences for homeless people in Cartagena, the city famous for its UNESCO-awarded historic centre but also home to slums and shanties.
Francis returns to Rome from Cartagena on Sunday night, ending a five-day visit highlighted by a huge prayer of reconciliation that brought together victims of Colombia’s long-running conflict and demobilised guerillas and paramilitary fighters.
– With agencies