Pope Will Visit Colombia to Boost Peace Process

Pope Will Visit Colombia to Boost Peace Process

Pope Francis travels to Colombia this week to encourage a fledgling peace process that ended half a century of war between a succession of governments and the guerrilla group FARC but has left the country deeply divided.
Francis, making his 20th foreign trip as pontiff and his fifth to his native Latin America, will spend five days in the country, visiting the capital Bogota and the cities of Villavicencio, Medellin and Cartagena, Reuters reported.
The Argentine pope had delayed accepting a government and church invitation to visit Colombia, where about 80% of the population is Catholic, until a viable peace process was under way.
“He had wanted to go for a long time. Now the moment has come,” Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said.
Leftist FARC, by far Colombia’s biggest rebel group, introduced its new political party last week, a major step in its transition into a civilian organization after more than 50 years of war that killed 220,000 people.
Under its 2016 peace deal with the government, most FARC fighters were granted amnesty and allowed to participate in politics. Whether the rebels will secure support from Colombians, many of who revile them, remains to be seen.
The peace accord, which was brokered by Cuba and Norway, was initially rejected by a less than one percent margin in a referendum before being modified and enacted.
Like the rest of the country, Colombia’s Roman Catholic bishops were divided on their support of the deal, with some saying it was too lenient to the guerrillas. The pope is expected to urge them to put aside their differences during his trip on Sept. 6-10 and help the country move forward.
“The greatest task of the Church in Colombia now is to help stem the polarization around the peace process between the government and the guerrillas,” said Archbishop Octavio Ruiz, a Vatican official and Colombian.
Reconciliation is the main theme of the trip and will be the emphasis for events on Friday in the city of Villavicencio, south of Bogota.
There, in what is billed as the “great prayer meeting for national reconciliation”, the pope will listen to testimonials from people whose lives were affected by the violence and then deliver a homily.


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