VATICAN CITY, OCT. 7, 2001 ( John Paul II today appealed for peace in Colombia, on the occasion of the country´s National Day of Prayer for Peace.

Addressing the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter´s Square to pray the Angelus, the Holy Father noted that Colombia for years has experienced "a situation of acute social unrest, with numerous murders, kidnappings and other acts of violence."

John Paul II joined Colombians in their day of prayer, asking "God´s help to overcome differences and confrontations."

The Pope also appealed to Colombians to work for "a stable peace, by releasing hostages and establishing an honest dialogue that will restore fraternity and solidarity among Colombia´s beloved sons and daughters."

At midday in the South American country, politicians, artists, employees, athletes, businessmen and industrialists observed a minute of silence and prayer for peace. The initiative was proposed by first lady Nohra Puyana de Pastrana.

From Rome, Colombian Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Sáenz joined in the "Minute of Prayer for Peace," and appealed to all his countrymen to make this initiative serve "to receive the gift of peace and build it with our own heart."

The cardinal, who is attending the Synod of Bishops, made a special appeal to Catholics to reject all forms of violence.

The Colombian government and the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces agreed Saturday to study a document prepared by a group of experts. The Commission of Notables proposed a cease-fire and an end to hostilities. The armed group also promised to halt its campaign of massive kidnappings on highways.

Confrontations continue, however. At least eight guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and a military man died Saturday during battles in the northeast, center and southwest of the country, while rebels of the National Liberation Army dynamited sections of the country´s main oil pipeline, the army reported.

In addition, two soldiers died when rebels assaulted a caravan of trucks on a northern highway.