Pope in Colombia to promote unity

Pope in Colombia to promote unity

Pope in Colombia to promote unity

Pope Francis will officiate today his first camp mass at Bogota's Simon Bolivar Park, in which about one million parishioners eager for his message of peace are expected to attend.

The pontiff said it was time "to help each other" after hatred that had lasted "too long".

Francis was presented with a dove of peace by Emmanuel, a boy born in captivity to Clara Rojas, a politician who spent nearly six years as a hostage of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas.

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".

Francis also urged the church hierarchy to work for unity and communion in-house - a reference to the divisions even within the Catholic Church over the terms of the peace accord.

Peace in the country remains fragile, as FARC's demise may lead other violent groups to take control of drug trafficking, and there are fears of revenge attacks on former rebels.

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"I'm convinced that the only way out of the conflict is dialogue", said Dairo Usuga, appearing publicly for the first time, in a video published on social media.

The plane flying Francis to Colombia left Rome Wednesday morning and had to change its flight path to avoid Category 5 Hurricane Irma.

The pope then turned his attention to Venezuela where, he said, "may dialogue happen and may the country rediscover a good stability with the dialogue of all". His five-day visit is aimed at helping solidify last year's peace accord between the government and leftist rebels that has bitterly divided the nation.

Pope Francis is telling Colombia's bishops that they have a unique role to play in helping Colombians heal from a half-century of rebellion, saying they must show a "distinct kind of moral courage" to help Colombians overcome their base instincts of war and fear.

The Pontiff's visit is to fix divisions after a war that killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions over five decades.

Francis had called ahead of his trip for a "stable and lasting peace" in Colombia. 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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