Pope Francis asks Colombia to confront inequality

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to celebrate Mass at Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport in Medellin Colombia Sept. 9

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to celebrate Mass at Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport in Medellin Colombia Sept. 9

Now survivors of that massacre and relatives of those killed have spent three days bringing the Christ to the city of Villavicencio to be blessed by Pope Francis when he visits on Friday.

Pope Francis' Sept. 6-11 trip to Colombia follows apostolic visits by two of his predecessors, Bl.

At the start of his first full day in Colombia, Francis told government leaders in the courtyard of the presidential palace that all Colombians should see peace as a long-term commitment and not allow it to be weakened by partisan politics. He said he wanted to be there to listen to its people and weep with them.

Pope Francis is urging victims of Colombia's violent past to take a first step and forgive their assailants, saying any effort at peace will fail without a honest commitment to reconciliation.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Villavincencio, a region bloodied by the conflict.

"I am deeply touched by his holy presence in my homeland, whose people have the privilege of hearing his word of faith, hope, joy, love, reconciliation, and peace", Timochencko wrote in a letter to the Pope Thursday, after the pontiff's push for peace. "We do not want any type of violence whatsoever to restrict or destroy one more life".

"I thank God and little mother Mary for giving me the strength to treat him without causing harm and in spite of my incredible pain", Mira said as Francis looked on in solemn silence.

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The FARC have since disarmed and transformed into a political party under a peace accord with the government.

The special Alitalia jetliner, which departed late Wednesday morning from Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport, had been originally scheduled to fly over Puerto Rico and Venezuela before entering Colombia airspace.

The peace deal and an earlier land reform are supposed to redistribute the land and compensate victims driven from their homesteads by illegal armed groups. But authorities overseeing the process have been slow to hand out titles, and peasant farmers in far-flung regions face numerous threats asserting their rights.

He ends the day with an outdoor Mass in Simon Bolivar Park, with hundreds of thousands expected.

Francis donned a blue striped poncho given to him by the delegation of 10 residents of Mocoa, which is near Colombia's border with Ecuador. He even gave a few high-fives to some youths who got a little too close.

"Don't let anyone steal your happiness, don't let anyone steal your hope", Francis told young people outside the embassy, his residence during the trip.

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