Church in Colombia Praises Peace Pact

Agreement Calls for Total Cease-Fire by April 10

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LOS POZOS, Colombia, JAN. 21, 2002 ( Catholic Church officials applauded the agreement reached between Andrés Pastrana´s government and the Colombian Armed Revolutionary Forces (FARC), which allows the peace process to continue.

Camilo Gómez, High Commissioner for Peace, announced Sunday that the agreement also extends the rebels´ demilitarized zone.

Had the agreement not materialized, the Colombian army would have stormed the 42,000-square-kilometer enclave controlled by the guerrillas. A bloodbath was feared.

For the past three years there have been intermittent peace talks between the government and FARC to put an end to 38 years of internal war. In the past decade alone, conflicts have killed more than 40,000 people.

Present as facilitators at Sunday´s meeting were 10 ambassadors from “friendly countries”; James Lemoyne, the U.N.´s special envoy; and Archbishop Alberto Giraldo, president of the Colombian episcopal conference.

Archbishop Giraldo expressed his support for the approved working calendar, which looks to a total cease-fire before April 10.

“The Pope once said: ´There will only be peace when we all understand that we are all a great family,´” the archbishop told the press. “This experience of the great international family meeting here in Caguan, has announced the need for the reconciliation of the whole Colombian family.”

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