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Optimism and hope growing in Columbia, Bishop says

.- During his visit to the organization Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Luis Romero Franco of Facatitiva, Columbia, praised the efforts of the national government to put an end to the armed conflict in the country and said “there is more optimism and more hope in our people.”

The Bishop explained that recent integration of a paramilitary group into the national military forces “is a success” and that “new jobs are being created with an economic growth of 3.9% in the first six months of 2003.”

Likewise, the Bishop emphasized the importance of the clergy and the laity as “factors for development and peace in the country” and he recalled that “the Catholic Church is acting as mediator” in the current conflict.

According to Bishop Romero, the Committee on Peace of the Columbian Bishops Conference which was established in 1995, “has contributed greatly to discussions between the government and revolutionaries” and “has been crucial” in the negotiations for the recent release of hostages held by the National Liberation Army (ELN). However, Bishop Romero called discussions with the Revolutionary Forces of Columbia (FARC), “difficult.”

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