Pope Francis Urges Colombia to Seize 'Second Chance'

Rapping nun plans to welcome Pope Francis with a song during Colombia visit

Pope Francis holds an open-air mass Thursday (Friday in Manila) in Colombia and meets with its Nobel Peace Prize-winning president to cheer the country on its march towards reconciliation after a half-century war.

- Receives warm welcome and is greeted by thousands upon arrival.

As part of the peace agreement, the government agreed with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to distribute more land and land titles to poor rural communities and to invest and bring development to war-torn areas.

Once the welcoming ceremony was concluded, Francisco boarded the pope-mobile for the 15 km trip to the apostolic nunciature, where he would spend the night.

"The steps taken give rise to hope, in the conviction that seeking peace is an open-ended endeavour, a task which does not relent, which demands the commitment of everyone", Francis said. The Vatican a year ago sponsored dialogue between President Nicolas Maduro's government and the opposition and bishops from the country are slated to meet with Francis in Colombia as pressure builds on the embattled socialist to yield power. "I pray for you, for the present and for the future of Colombia".

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Still, he acknowledged that much work remains to be done to overcome the bitter divisions created by a peace deal past year that conservative opponents see as too generous with leftist guerrillas behind scores of atrocities during the country's half-century conflict.

Former President Alvaro Uribe, a fierce opponent of the peace deal, wrote a letter to the pope Tuesday expressing concern that the deal with the rebels had fueled a rise in drug trafficking and created economic uncertainties with the potential to destroy Colombia's social fabric.

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.

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".

Francis had called ahead of his trip for a "stable and lasting peace" in Colombia. At least four people have been taken away in stretchers. 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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