Pope Francis Visits Colombia, Where Even Peace Is Polarizing


On the surface, much has gone well for the peace accords between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by their acronym, FARC. After failing in the referendum, the government reworked the deal and passed it through Congress, sidestepping voters. About 7,000 rebels left the jungle, gave up weapons and are returning to civilian life.

But for Ms. González and thousands of others, the conflict left lasting scars. An estimated 220,000 people were killed as rebels battled government and paramilitary groups from isolated mountains to city streets. At least six million people were displaced by the conflict.

Public opinion has edged up — slightly — in favor of the deal signed by President Juan Manuel Santos. But the country is still as divided as ever at a time when rebels are meant to be starting new lives among civilians.

“One of the challenges to understand the dynamic here is the polarization the conflict left behind,” Mr. Ospino said.

Francis’ visit to Colombia is the first papal trip to the country since 1986, when the war was still raging and much of the country was off limits to Pope John Paul II.

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President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, left, and members of his cabinet met Rodrigo Londoño, the leader of the FARC rebel group, center in blue shirt, during a ceremony on Tuesday marking the rebels’ disarmament.

Credit
The New York Times

This time, Francis has more freedom to travel the country and meet his flock, celebrating Mass in Bogotá on Thursday, beatifying clerics killed in the war on Friday in the city of Villavicencio, and on Saturday and Sunday visiting Medellín and Cartagena, both of which have staged remarkable turnarounds in recent years.

“‘Let us take the first step’ is the theme of this journey,” Francis said in a video message to Colombians on Monday. “Peace is what Colombia has sought for a long time, and it is working to achieve it.”