Representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have requested to meet with Pope Francis during his visit to Cuba in September.
Peace talks between FARC and the Colombian government have been taking place in Havana, Cuba, since 2012. The request for a meeting with the Holy Father was made to the Episcopal Conference of Colombia by Antonio Lozada, one of the negotiators representing the guerrilla group.
Lozada also requested that a delegate from the Holy See to be present during the negotiations. “We want to study the possibility of a meeting (with the Pope), but we know it’s something the Vatican and the Cuban Government must study,” Lozada said in a statement.
“We are proposing that there also be a delegate of Pope Francis in the negotiations, although we know that it is something that both parties must request.”
A delegation from the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, led by its president, Archbishop Luis A. Castro Quiroga, met with representatives of FARC to assist in the peace negotiations. According to Italian Catholic news blog, Il Sismografo, the meeting between the bishops and the guerrilla group lasted for roughly two hours.
In a press conference following the meeting, Archbishop Quiroga said that a meeting between the Pope and the FARC representatives is a possibility.
“It is something that depends on the government and the Church of Cuba, therefore it is not our decision whether they can meet, but it is a possibility that might be done,” the Colombian prelate told the press.
The conflict in Colombia, which has spanned almost 50 years between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government, has left an estimated 220,000 dead, over 25,000 missing and 30,000 people kidnapped.
For his part, Pope Francis has expressed his hope that the negotiations can finally lead to peace in the country.
In a message sent earlier this month to participants of the 18th Meeting of the Ordinary Jurisdiction on “Transitional Justice, Peace and Post-Conflict” in Cartagena, the Holy Father said that the peace process requires “courage and creatitvity.”
The statement, which was sent on the Pope’s behalf by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, assured Pope Francis’ prayers for those contributing to the peace process “so that, in the framework of institutionalism, they will contribute with courage and creativity to identify solutions that reinforce peace and justice, in respect of the national and international juridical order.”