Pope urges peace process in Colom­bia to go for­ward

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - RELIGION - BY NI­COLE WIN­FIELD

Pope Fran­cis is call­ing for the peace process in Colom­bia to go ahead and is of­fer­ing the Holy See’s as­sis­tance if it might help.

Fran­cis, who was on his way home Mon­day from his South Amer­ica trip, said he was con­cerned about the ne­go­ti­a­tions and that “it would be an ugly thing” if the talks do not go ahead.

“We are al­ways dis­posed to help, we have so many ways to help,” he told re­porters.

Colom­bia’s gov­ern­ment and left­ist rebels an­nounced Sun­day they had agreed to ac­cel­er­ate peace ne­go­ti­a­tions and will at­tempt to ne­go­ti­ate a cease-fire even be­fore reach­ing an agree­ment to bring an end to the coun­try’s five-decade-old con­flict.

The an­nounce­ment came as faith in the three-year-old ne­go­ti­a­tions sunk to a record low af­ter bat­tle­field vi­o­lence in­ten­si­fied in re­cent months.

In com­ments to re­porters aboard the pa­pal plane, Fran­cis was more cir­cum­spect about wad­ing into Bo­livia’s long­stand­ing bor­der dis­pute with Chile. Bo­livia lost its ac­cess to the Pa­cific Ocean dur­ing the War of the Pa­cific with Chile in 1879-83. Bo­livia has re­cently taken its bid to rene­go­ti­ate ac­cess to the Pa­cific to the In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice, which hasn’t yet ruled on whether it will take the case.

Dur­ing his visit, Fran­cis stressed the need for di­a­logue among all coun­tries in Latin Amer­ica, es­pe­cially with ref­er­ence to the sea dis­pute. He was asked Sun­day to go far­ther, and whether he sup­ported Bo­livia’s bid to change its borders.

“At this point, I have to be very re­spect­ful re­gard­ing this be­cause Bo­livia has made an ap­peal to an in­ter­na­tional or­gan. If I make a com­ment, I’m a head of state, it could be in­ter­preted as me try­ing to med­dle in the sovereignty of another state.”

Over­all, he praised the Latin Amer­i­can church as young and fresh - and said that the rest of the world can learn from it.

“I’ve wished to give en­cour­age­ment to this young church and I be­lieve that this church can give us much,” he said. “It can also be an undis­ci­plined church but with time it will be­come dis­ci­plined. But it will give us so much good.”

De­spite the ex­haus­tion of the trip, Fran­cis was in hu­mor­ous form dur­ing the hour-long air­borne press con­fer­ence, quip­ping that he might break into Guarani at any mo­ment. (Fran­cis twice led the faith­ful in Paraguay in the “Our Fa­ther” prayer in the na­tive lan­guage).

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