Pope Francis Calls for Reconciliation in Colombia

Pope Francis called Friday for reconciliation in Colombia and said any efforts to permanently end the country’s more than 50-year civil conflict would “fail” without concessions.

During a large open air Mass in Villavicencio, the pope said, “Every effort at peace without a sincere commitment to reconciliation is destined to fail.” He also said, “Reconciliation means opening a door to every person who has experienced the tragic reality of conflict.”

The Mass took place on the third day of the pontiff’s five-day trip to Colombia, where he has met with victims of the violent civil war and with leaders. He lent his support to the contested peace process, which has seen Colombia’s largest rebel group, the FARC, turned into a legitimate political party.

During Mass, Francis urged Colombians to “overcome the understandable temptation to vengeance” and work to build a lasting peace.

Two Catholic priests killed during the civil war also were beatified in a move that is a step toward sainthood in the church.

During a speech Thursday, Francis stressed the importance of the peace process. He said his visit was meant to express “appreciation for the efforts made over the decades to end armed violence and find ways of reconciliation.”

On the first day of his visit to the heavily Catholic country, Francis met with President Juan Manuel Santos and first lady Maria Clemencia Rodriguez, along with other government and religious leaders, and young people.

In meeting with the pope, Santos recalled his country’s turmoil. “For over half a century, we resigned ourselves to violence on our soil, and its ashes — of resentment, pain, of vengeance — are still ardent embers that we must extinguish.”

To ease those tensions and prepare Colombians for a better future, Santos’ administration has promoted training.

“Education is somehow what most helps us build that different country,” Education Minister Yaneth Giha told VOA. “The pope’s visit helps us to reinforce the message that we are on the right path.”

Francis met privately with Santos. Later, Bogotá Mayor Enrique Peñalosa handed the pontiff the keys to the city in a brief, symbolic ceremony.


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