FARC Leader Asks Forgiveness from Pope for Thousands of Guerrilla Victims

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FARC Leader Asks Forgiveness from Pope for Thousands of Guerrilla Victims

"This is not achieved simply with those of 'pure blood, ' but by all", the pope told Santos and government officials September 7 outside the Casa de Narino, Colombia's presidential palace.

Francis was presented with a dove of peace by Emmanuel, a boy born in captivity to Clara Rojas, a politician who spent nearly six years as a hostage of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas.

In a gesture to promote the themes of peace and reconciliation, he was given a dove by a boy named Emmanuel, who was born in a guerrilla camp to Colombian politician Clara Rojas, kidnapped in 2002 and released almost six years later.

The Guyana Peace Council (GPC) welcomes recent developments in Colombia signalling a further consolidation of efforts at peaceful reconciliation among guerrilla movements and the Government of Colombia.

In the highlight of his Colombia pilgrimage, Francis flew into an area once besieged by leftist rebels to pray with victims and urge them to overcome their grief by forgiving their assailants.

He was to visit the capital, Bogota, and the cities of Villavicencio, Medellin and Cartagena.

Pope Francis ended by telling the country, "you have a great and noble mission, which is also a hard task", then quoting Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez: "In spite of this, before oppression, plundering and abandonment, we respond with life".

Later Friday Francis will take part in a prayer meeting for national reconciliation, in which victims of the civil war, former guerrillas, former paramilitaries and police officers will take part.

During a speech Thursday, Francis stressed the importance of the peace process.

Priests in the central Colombian town of Armero said Ramirez was pulled from the church, stripped naked and attacked with machetes by an angry mob of Gaitan's followers, who accused him of protecting their conservative enemies.

Pope Francis arrived in Colombia as the country pursues peace after five decades of armed conflict. Because his love heralds the peace, reconciliation and justice that the sons and daughters of this country have yearned for for so long.

Santos, who has promoted the peace accord in the face of stiff opposition, called the pope's visit a "push" to take the first steps toward peace and reconciliation. That led to negotiations in which Santos and the rebels eventually incorporated some of Uribe's criticisms into a revised accord that was approved by congress.

Timochenko in the letter said to the high pontiff, "Your repeated expositions about the infinite mercy of God, have moved me to plead for his forgiveness for any tears or pain that we have caused the people of Colombia or any of its citizens".

On behalf of his group and its members, the former guerrilla leader asked the pope to pray for the success of the peace process that seeks to end of 52 years of armed conflict between the FARC and the state.

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