Pope rallies Colombian leaders, youth for peace

Pope rallies Colombian leaders, youth for peace

Pope rallies Colombian leaders, youth for peace

The arriving pope was greeted at Bogota's military air base by President Juan Manuel Santos and an orchestra mixing classics by Vivaldi and Beethoven with rhythmic cumbia music popular along Colombia's Caribbean coast.

One of the gifts he received on the tarmac had particular symbolic significance: a sculpted peace dove offered to him by the young son of a rebel father and politician mother who was taken captive by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in 2002.

Uribe, along with many others, argues that the deal with the FARC isn't tough enough on the rebels, since it doesn't include opposition demands that they serve traditional jail sentences and be barred from forming political parties.

Pope Francis is leading Colombians in prayers at the main cathedral in Bogota, with thousands of people jammed in the plaza outside waiting for him to emerge.

He smiled widely as he waved from the Popemobile to thousands of well-wishers who lined up for hours for a glimpse of the wildly popular pontiff along the 9-mile route from the airport to the Vatican's embassy, where he was to rest after a long day flying from Rome.

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".

At his open-air encounter with Santos in front of the presidential palace, Francis hugged local children dressed all in white as a choir sang a song of peace.

He praised the pope for coming to this country at "this moment of utmost importance for the peace process".

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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. "You are not alone, many of us want to give way for peace".

Pope Francis will travel to three other cities, where he will meet victims of the country's civil war.

He then reminded the media that "this plane we will fly over Venezuela", and here, too, he asked them to "pray that it can dialogue, a dialogue with everyone, so that the country can have good stability".

On Thursday Francis will meet with Santos and Catholic leaders. Some 300 people were sheltering in the church when it was hit during a three-way firefight between FARC rebels, right-wing militias and the army. At least four people have been taken away in stretchers. That conflict has claimed 220,000 lives and left millions more victimized and displaced.

In a speech Thursday at the residence of Bogota's archbishop, Francis urged Colombia's 130 bishops to give their flock the courage "in taking the first step towards definitive peace and reconciliation, towards abdicating the method of violence and overcoming the inequalities at the root of so much suffering".

The Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said the key message of the trip is "the capacity to forgive: to forgive, and receive forgiveness".

As he was walking to the stage where he delivered his remarks, Pope Francis was flanked by Santos and first lady Maria Clemencia Rodriguez. Both used their visits to show solidarity with victims of violence, discrimination and poverty and to urge government authorities to fix the structural and societal problems that have made Colombia one of the most unequal countries in Latin America.

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