Pope Francis visits Columbia to support peace process

Pope Francis talks in flight as he departs for his 5-day visit to Colombia at Fiumicino International Airport in Rome Italy Sept. 6 2017

Santos so far has spent most of his presidency on the peace arrangement reached a year ago with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - or FARC - the militant left-wing rebels that had fought against the government since the 1960s.

Pope Francis was welcomed to Colombia on Wednesday in the hope of healing the wounds and divisions left by the region's longest-running armed conflict.

Speaking to reporters on the Bogota-bound plane, Francis said the trip was "a bit special because it is being made to help Colombia go forward on its path to peace".

Pope Francis is urging young Colombians to take the lead in promoting forgiveness to help their country heal from a half-century of armed rebellion, saying youngsters more than adults are able to "leave behind what has hurt us and look to the future without the burden of hatred".




A woman holds rosary beads as Pope Francis greets the faithful at the Apostolic Nunciature to Colombia in Bogota, Colombia, September 6, 2017.

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis' first meeting in Colombia on Thursday was with President Manuel Santos, as well as other government and civil authorities gathered outside the presidential palace.

President Juan Manuel Santos, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for his reconciliation efforts, told Italy's Il Messaggero newspaper that the visit would "motivate [Colombians] to continue on the path of reconciliation". For Colombia, this is the first papal visit since 1986.

Pope Francis is waving to crowds from his vehicle as he starts his first full day in Colombia, where he's stressing a message of reconciliation for a country emerging from five decades of armed conflict. "The solitude of always being at loggerheads has been familiar for decades, and its smell has lingered for a hundred years; we do not want any type of violence whatsoever to restrict or destroy one more life", he said. Upon his arrival in Colombia Wednesday, the pope met with victims of the 52-year conflict between the government and the FARC rebels. At least 79 people died and 100 were injured. Even the Catholic Church hierarchy, which was instrumental in facilitating the peace talks and is now spearheading the process of reconciliation, was divided over what many Colombians saw as the overly generous terms offered to rebels behind atrocities. "Colombia is the one country in the world where today weapons are being exchanged for words".

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