Francis welcomes peace deal in Colombia

Francis welcomes peace deal in Colombia

Colombian pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, April 20, 2016. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
Colombian pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, April 20, 2016. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

.- On Wednesday Pope Francis expressed his pleasure that peace negotiations between the Colombian government and FARC rebels have been finalized, though he declined to send a representative to help select judges for a truth and justice commission.

The Pope “reiterates his support for the goal of attaining the peace and reconciliation of the entire Colombian people, in light of human rights and Christian values, which are at the heart of Latin American culture,” stated an Aug. 31 communique from the Vatican Secretary of State.

Pope Francis had declined an Aug. 12 invitation to appoint a representative to the committee in charge of selecting judges for the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, explaining that given “the universal vocation of the Church and the mission of the Successor of Peter as Pastor of the People of God” it would be more appropriate for another party to fulfill this task.

A ceasefire came into effect in Colombia this week as a result of a peace accord reached Aug. 24  between the Colombian government and the country's largest rebel group, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), intended to end the country's 52-year conflict.

Since 1964, as many as 260,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in Colombia's civil war. The Marxist FARC rebels and the Colombian government have been engaged in peace talks in Cuba since 2012.

The conflict has engendered right wing paramilitaries aligned with the government, as well as secondary rebel groups such as the National Liberation Army.

The agreement still needs to be approved by Colombians in a popular vote, scheduled to take place Oct. 2. Many have welcomed the peace accord, but some – including former president Alvaro Uribe – charge that it is too lenient on the FARC.

The deal would incorporate some of FARC's leadership into the government in exchange for their disarmament and renunciation of kidnapping and drug trafficking.

Pope Francis has voiced his support for an end to the violence in Colombia before, most recently during an in-flight Q&A with journalists during a return flight to Rome Sept. 27, 2015.

In response to a question regarding his feelings about a peace accord to be signed in March 2016 – an agreement which ultimately fell through – Pope Francis responded that when he heard the news of the upcoming signing he said, “Lord, help us reach March.”

“I was very happy and I felt like I was a part of it because I’ve always wanted this,” the Pope said. “I spoke to (Colombian) President Santos twice about this problem and not only me, but the Holy See. The Holy See was always willing to help and do what it could.”
Regarding this week's finalization of the 297-page peace accord, Pope Francis entrusted the peace process in Columbia to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“Pope Francis commends the peace process in Colombia to the maternal protection of the Most Holy Mother of God, Queen of Peace,” the official communique reads, “and he invokes the gift of the Holy Spirit to enlighten the hearts and minds of those who are called to promote the common good of the Colombian nation.”

Tags: FARC, Pope Francis, Colombian conflict