Pope Francis Visits Colombia

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

Meanwhile, the nation's top drug fugitive, the target of a $5 million manhunt by USA authorities, appealed to the pope to pray that he and his fellow combatants be allowed to lay down their weapons as part of the peace process - a proposal the Colombian government has rejected. Even the Catholic Church hierarchy, which was instrumental in facilitating the peace talks and is now spearheading the process of reconciliation, was divided over what many Colombians saw as overly generous terms offered to rebels behind atrocities.

Speaking to reporters on the Bogota-bound plane, Francis said the trip was special to him because it is being made to help Colombia go forward on its path to peace. They interrupted him frequently with cheers, including when he repeated his famous line about how "only the young can make a mess!"

"We do not want any type of violence whatsoever to restrict or destroy one more life", Francis, who is the first Pope in 31 years to visit Colombia, said.

Greeted at the airport by President Juan Manuel Santos as attendees waved white handkerchiefs, the Argentine pope hopes his presence will help build bridges in a nation torn apart by bitter feuding over a peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The crowd is so tightly packed that some people are fainting. At least 79 people died and 100 were injured.

Pope Francis landed in Colombia on Wednesday to plead for lasting peace in a country moving towards the end of a half-century war, and praying for stability in its crisis-stricken neighbor Venezuela.

The pope spoke at the Nariño presidential palace in Bogota, during his second day in Colombia, which will last until September 10.

Children on the stage then abandoned their positions to throw their arms around Francis in a series of unscripted embraces.

The Colombian President thanked Francis for supporting negotiators at troubling moments during the four-year negotiations with the guerrilla group and hoped his visit would inspire the ordinary people to commit to peace.

Santos so far has spent most of his presidency on the peace arrangement reached previous year with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - or FARC - the militant left-wing rebels that had fought against the government since the 1960s. The more hard the path that leads to peace and understanding, the more we must strive to recognize the other, to heal wounds and build bridges, to strengthen ties and help each other. He also called for legislation to correct what he said were the structural causes of poverty that sparked the conflict.

He said the root of all social ills, including wars, is inequality and asked all Colombians to look in the eyes of the poorest of the nation and understand their needs.

"Peace is what Colombia has been looking for and working for for such a long time", he said.

The papal visit, he added, was "a contribution that in some way paves the path to reconciliation and peace" while quoting Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez to stress that famines, plagues, floods and "unending wars" can not "subdue the tenacious advantage of life over death". "That's why we need to reconcile".

"It is not worth silencing the rifles, if we remain armed in our hearts", Santos said.

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.

On his drive to the Vatican Embassy in central Bogota, the leader of the world's Roman Catholics was mobbed in the "popemobile" by screaming crowds tossing flowers and holding up children to be kissed. Later he'll meet with bishops and cardinals from around the region.

He will visit the city's Cathedral and give a mass to thousands of worshippers in Simon Bolivar Park.

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