Colom­bia rebels want meet­ing with pope

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Colom­bia’s Marx­ist FARC rebels, now ne­go­ti­at­ing a peace deal in Ha­vana, said Sun­day they hope to meet with Pope Fran­cis on his up­com­ing Cuba visit.

Pope Fran­cis will visit Cuba Sept. 19 to 22 as part of a tour that will later take him to the United States.

“We would like to do that. It would be some­thing amaz­ing,” the rebels’ spokesman Ivan Mar­quez said ahead of a break in the talks, which re­sume Aug. 17.

“Just imag­ine the im­pact

it would have to get Pope Fran­cis’ sup­port for this ma­jor joint ef­fort for all Colom­bians — to achieve rec­on­cil­i­a­tion af­ter decades of con­flict,” he added.

Asked if any re­quest had for­mally been made to the Vat­i­can, Mar­quez said he was “talk­ing about some­thing we as­pire to do.”

Colom­bia is over­whelm­ingly Ro­man Catholic.

And the pope — a na­tive of Ar­gentina and first pon­tiff to hail from Latin Amer­ica — has a keen in­ter­est in is­sues re­lated to poverty, Cuban em­i­grant, refugees and po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers.

Fran­cis is also known to have played a key role in nudg­ing the United States and Cuba to­ward rec­on­cil­i­a­tion late last year, end­ing decades of es­trange­ment dat­ing back to the Cold War.

Colom­bia’s stop- start peace talks, on­go­ing since Novem­ber 2012, have made progress on some im­por­tant points but lack a fi­nal agree­ment.

The war in Colom­bia has left an es­ti­mated 220,000 dead and forced more than 6 mil­lion peo­ple from their homes.

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