Colombian Guerrilla Fighters Ask Pope Francis for Forgiveness

Violet Powell
September 10, 2017

"All of us know that peace calls for a distinct kind of moral courage", Francis said, according to a transcript of his speech provided by Vatican Radio.

Francis urged the bishops to pay special attention to marginalized people and show particular sensitivity to the needs of the Afro-Colombian population.

"I hope that reconciliation will not remain just an abstract word", Francis told Colombians at the mass.

Archbishop Ruiz, who had been archbishop of Villavicencio, will accompany Pope Francis on the visit to Colombia.

He appealed to everyone present to open a door to "every person who has experienced the tragic reality of conflict, because, when victims overcome the temptation to vengeance, they become the most credible protagonists for the process of building peace".

Tens of thousands of ecstatic people in this humid area of savanna and shantytowns packed the roads as the pope, riding in the front seat of a simple auto, passed by on Friday morning after his plane arrived from the capital Bogota.

Bishop Jesus Jaramillo was gunned down in 1989 in the eastern city of Arauca by rebels from the National Liberation Army, with whom he clashed over theological grounds.

The visit of the first Latin American pope is due to the signing of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the former FARC guerrillas: it was foreseen that the maximum authority of the Catholic Church would seal the occasion of the implementation of the agreement in Colombia with a papal visit.

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He visits Medellin and Cartagena over the weekend. After a reading of Psalm 85 - "Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss" - the pope heard testimonies from four different representatives of the decades-long violence.

Francis brought both together at the Vatican in December to try to broker an understanding.

A reworked version of the accord was later pushed through Congress despite Uribe's resistance.

The town, at the heart of an area once besieged by rebels, overwhelmingly backed the President's peace plan and has taken the step of welcoming back the FARC whose leaders have pleaded for forgiveness and launched a development project.

The new party aims to take part in all future elections, from votes for small communal councils to municipal polls as well as for legislative seats.

Rodrigo Londono says in a letter published on social media that he hopes Francis will understand that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia were always motivated by a honest desire to stand up for the nation's poorest and most-excluded citizens.

"Your frequent reminders about the infinite mercy of God move me to beg for your forgiveness for any tear or pain we've caused Colombian society or any of its individuals", wrote Rodrigo Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko.

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