Pope Francis and Pres Santos urge peace, reconciliation in Colombia

Latin America

Pope Francis delivers a speech during a ceremony with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the Nariño presidential palace in Bogota on September 7, 2017. Pope Francis urged Colombians to avoid seeking “vengeance” for the sufferings of their country’s half-century civil conflict as they work towards a lasting peace. The 80-year-old pontiff spoke alongside Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos, who has overseen recent controversial efforts to make peace with armed rebel groups. / AFP PHOTO / Alberto PIZZOLI

Pope Francis has begun his five-day visit to Colombia. This trip comes as the country works to build a lasting peace, after more than 50-years of armed conflict in the region.

CGTNN’s Michelle Begue reports from Bogota.

Pope Francis met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in Bogota on Thursday. The pontiff hopes his visit will not only help the peace process in Colombia, but also urge a return to stability in neighboring Venezuela.

“Peace is something Colombia has been searching for for a long time. A stable and enduring peace to see each other and treat each other as brothers, never as enemies,” the pope said.

Colombians are deeply divided over the terms of the peace accord to end more than a half-century of armed conflict with the FARC guerrilla group. Reconciliation is a central theme of the Pope’s visit. He lobbied for the peace process and promised to visit if a deal was made with the rebels.

“The message is let’s sit down and resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner. It doesn’t mean that we are looking to not have conflict, but to find ways to resolve those conflicts. That is the message of the pope,” Political Analyst Pedro Viveros said.

The Colombian government is currently negotiating a peace deal with the country’s second-largest guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN).

On Monday, a temporary bilateral ceasefire was announced between the ELN and the government, beginning in October and ending on Jan. 12.

“The pope is coming during a unique moment, as we turn the page on an absurd conflict, and move forward to the future. And he is inviting us to take the first step,” Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said.

The ELN rebel group has said, “the visit of Pope Francis should provide extra motivation to speed up the search for an agreement.”