Pope Francis to visit Colombia, urges support for peace process

Pope Francis speaks as he leads the Chrism mass in Saint Peter's basilica at the Vatican April 2, 2015. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito
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BOGOTA (Reuters) - Pope Francis will visit Colombia, the Vatican said on Thursday, as the pontiff urged Colombians to work for peace as the country conducts talks with Marxist rebels to end 50 years of war. The pope will add Colombia to an upcoming tour of Latin America, the Vatican said in a letter to the country's Catholic leadership, without specifying a date. "His Holiness invites you to be collaborators in the construction of peace," the letter said, adding that the 78-year-old Argentine pope expressed solidarity with the victims of the war, which has killed 220,000 people. "We will receive (the Pope) with open arms and hearts as a messenger of peace and reconciliation," President Juan Manuel Santos said on Twitter. The government is more than two years into peace negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, rebel group. "We should not lose energy or hope in the face of this project's difficulties," the letter said of peace efforts. Negotiators have so far reached partial accords on land reform, an end to the illegal drugs trade and political participation for ex-rebels. They are now debating the thorny issues of victim reparations and guerrilla demobilization. "We must continue the commitment to the displaced, to survivors of land mines, those who have endured the taking of their property, the kidnapped, with everyone who has suffered," the Vatican said. (Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb and Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

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