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Pope Urges Peace, Understanding in Colombia

  • VOA News

Pope Francis stands over the crowd from Cardinal's Palace where he is to give a blessing at Bolivar Square in Bogota, Colombia, Sept. 7, 2017.

Pope Francis urged Colombians to rally behind a peace process seeking an end to Latin America's longest-running conflict and to address the inequalities that fueled it during his first full day in the South American country Thursday.

"There has been too much hatred and violence," the pope told an adoring crowd at Bogota's presidential palace. "Let us not forget that inequality is the root of social ills.''

The 80-year-old Argentine pontiff spoke alongside Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos, addressing political elites bitterly divided by last year's peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which ended a more than 50-year-old war.

Pope Francis speaks next to a "reconciliation flame" during a ceremony at the presidential palace in Bogota, Colombia, Sept. 7, 2017.
Pope Francis speaks next to a "reconciliation flame" during a ceremony at the presidential palace in Bogota, Colombia, Sept. 7, 2017.

Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to restore peace, but the agreement remains unpopular among Colombians.

Later Thursday, Pope Francis will lead an outdoor Mass in Simon Bolivar Park, attended by thousands of people tightly packed into the plaza. At least four people were taken away in stretchers after fainting in the crowds.

Crowd control has been a challenge and security tight during the first Latin American pontiff's trip to largely Catholic Colombia.

Nearly four out of 10 Catholics lived in Latin America and the Caribbean as of 2010, the Pew Research Center's latest data show. Colombia alone had the sixth-largest concentration of Catholics globally. Out of the country's almost 49 million people, nearly seven out of 10 identify as Catholic.

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