HAVANA TIMES — Pope Francis asked Colombia today not to give up on its efforts to find peace at a time when the country is moving through the final part of an armed conflict that has bled the country dry for more than five decades, reported dpa news.
Francis is on the second of his 6-day trip to the South American country.
“Don’t give up on your efforts, despite the obstacles, differences and varying perspectives on the way to achieve peaceful coexistence,” Francisco said when he was received at the Government palace by Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos.
Francisco thanked his host for the opportunity to be present in Colombia at a time he called “particularly important in its history”, explicitly referring to the peace process which seeks to end the armed conflict which began in 1964.
In November 2016, the government signed a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which has already dismantled and made a legal political party, at the same time that a similar agreement is under negotiation with the National Liberation Army (ELN) since February this year.
“I praise all the efforts undertaken over the last decades to end armed violence and to seek out paths of reconciliation. Significant progress has particularly been made over the past year. These steps have given rise to hope and the conviction that seeking peace is a task which does not relent, which demands the commitment of everyone,” the Pope said.
Meanwhile, Francis pointed out that the efforts to build peace need to avoid “all temptation to seek vengeance and the satisfaction of short-term partisan interests.”
“It will take time to walk down this path,” Francisco said, after pointing out the fact that the path to peace “is very difficult.”
The Pope also said that absolute peace would be achieved once the structural causes of poverty which he said “lead to exclusion and poverty” are addressed.
“Let us not forget that inequality is the root of social ills. I encourage you to look to all those who today are excluded and marginalized by society, those who have no value in the eyes of the majority, who are held back, cast aside,” he said.
Francisco pronounced these words before approximately 700 special guests in the Plaza de Armas in the Government’s Palace, where he paid a courtesy visit to President Santos.
The Colombian leader, the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2016 for the agreement reached with the FARC, had previously welcomed him.
“Thank you, His Holiness, for coming to accompany us at this unique moment in our country’s history, for coming to confirm us in faith, in unity and in love, for inviting us to be defenders of life, to be instruments of peace, just like St. Francis of Assisi prayed eight centuries ago,” said Santos.