Pope Francis Starts Five Day Trip to Colombia

Pope Francis Starts Five Day Trip to Colombia

Pope Francis, the 266th and current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, arrived Colombia on Wednesday on a five-day tour of the country. Francis will encourage reconciliation as Colombians prepare to receive 7,000 former FARC fighters into society and fix divisions after a war that killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions over five decades.

But many Colombians are furious that the 2016 peace deal with the government granted fighters amnesty and some will be rewarded with seats in Congress. "Ending the war is worthless if we still see each other as enemies".

Francis said he hoped the determination to achieve lasting peace should "help us flee from the temptation to vengeance and the satisfaction of short-term partisan interests".

In his remarks, Francis urged all Colombians "to heal wounds, to build bridges, to strengthen relationships and support one another".

Francis, who was born in Argentina, is making his fifth to Latin America, started his visit in Bogota.

Francis's trip follows the disarmament of Colombia's biggest rebel group, the FARC, and a ceasefire by the last active guerrilla force, the ELN.

Thousands of Colombians waving handkerchiefs in the red, yellow and blue of Colombia's flag greeted Francis in Plaza Bolivar, the main square facing Bogota's cathedral.

The FARC, which began as a peasant revolt in 1964, has also pledged to help subsistence farmers switch from illegal crops like coca, the raw material that makes cocaine, to food crops.

He said the root of all social ills, including wars, is inequality and asked all Colombians to look in the eyes of the poorest of the nation and understand their needs.

Hope will be a major theme of the visit as the pope will try to persuade Colombians to come together following five decades of armed rebellion that left more than 250,000 people dead, 60,000 missing and millions displaced.

President Juan Manuel Santos is embracing Francis' motto for his trip, calling on Colombians to "Take the First Step" and let go of much resentment stirred by decades of armed conflict. "It will fill our hearts with the presence of God, with joy and blessing for our land for which we have suffered so much", said Olga Guerrero, a student in front of the embassy.

Pope Francis is waving to crowds from his auto 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.

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