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Pope urges end to violence in Colombia, calls for reconciliation

Bogota, Sep 7 (IANS/AKI) Pope Francis urged Colombias leaders on Thursday to set aside “hatred and vengeance” and “listen to the poor, to those who suffer” in a nation that is emerging from Latin America’s longest-running conflict, Vatican Radio reported.

“Peace is an open-ended endeavour, a task which does not relent, which demands the commitment of everyone,” he said in an address here during his five-day visit to Colombia aimed at consolidating the peace process after five decades of bloody conflict between government forces and left-wing rebels that was sparked by entrenched inequality.

“There has been too much hatred and vengeance.

“Despite obstacles, differences and varying perspectives on the way to achieve peaceful coexistence, this task summons us to persevere in the struggle to promote a ‘culture of encounter’,” Francis said.

This means placing “the human person” and “respect for the common good” at the centre of society, politics and economics, the Pope underlined.

“May this determination help us flee from the temptation to vengeance and the satisfaction of short-term partisan interests.”

It was the first speech of his visit, made at the presidential palace and seat of government in the capital, Bogota, to President Juan Manuel Colombia’s political, cultural and economic elite.

The crowd also included soldiers with amputated limbs and disabled children.

In the address, Pope Francis called on listeners to “structural causes of poverty that lead to exclusion and violence”, reminding them that “inequality is the root of social ills”.

He also urged Colombia to show “careful respect” for its biodiversity – for which it is ranked second in the world.

Concern for the environment is one of the hallmarks of his papacy and his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si (Praise Be) on climate change, the Pope accused industrialised nations of destroying “our common home” at the expense of the world’s poorest and appealed to business and political leaders to take effective action to combat global warming.

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