Pope Francis sent a handwritten letter to a disabled soldier he met in Colombia this fall, thanking him for a special gesture at the Bogota airport, when the soldier gave him his military cap.
The pope told the soldier that their encounter touched him so much that he placed a photo of it in his study.
The pontiff's letter was addressed to the special ops Marine Edwin Restrepo. Restrepo, who has been in a wheelchair for 13 years, after he stepped on an anti-personnel blast mine during a search and secure operation near the town of Zambrano.
Restrepo lost part of an arm and a leg, and he also went blind. Nevertheless, he learned to read Braille and after finishing school, began a law career. He also learned how to walk with his new prosthesis.
Restrepo briefly met Pope Francis at the Catam airport in Bogota on Sept. 10 before the pontiff left for Villavicencio during his apostolic trip to Colombia. He handed the Pope his soldier’s cap and asked the Holy Father to pray for the soldiers and police in Colombia.
The pope's letter is dated Oct. 16 and was read and delivered to the soldier Nov. 9 by Bishop Suesc√∫n Mutis of the Colombian military diocese.
The Holy Father wrote in his letter, “Dear Brother, I don't know your name but I haven't forgotten the spontaneous gesture you made this past September 10 at the Catam airport before my departure for Villavicencio.”
Referring to the military cap Restrepo handed him, Francis wrote, “That gesture touched my heart, and I didn't give your soldier's cap to my aide (as I normally do with the things people give me). Instead I wanted to take it with me, a memento and symbol of your devotion and love for your country, as captured in the photo.”
The pope told Restrepo that “that soldier's cap accompanied me during the trip. I thought of you often, and of so many of your companions injured fighting for your people.”
After returning to Rome, “I couldn't let go of it, and I placed it next to the photo and the news article that came out in L’Osservatore Romano next to the picture of the Blessed Virgin above the little altar that I have in my study that I often pray in front of. So every time I pray there, I pray for You, your fallen and injured comrades and for Colombia.”
“And once again I say ‘Thanks!’ to you. Thanks for your gesture, thanks for your love for your country. And, please, I ask you to not forget to pray for me. May Jesus bless you and the Blessed Virgin care for you. Fraternally, Francisco,” the text concludes.