On Monday, Pope Francis received Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia. During the meeting, the Holy Father reiterated the Church’s support in the ongoing peace process in the country.
Although there is no official date, the Holy Father confirmed to the president his intention to visit the country. He also said that the signing of a peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) would hasten a scheduled visit.
Upon President Santos’ arrival, the Pope greeted him in his native Spanish, saying: “It is a pleasure to see you.”
“The pleasure is mine,” the Colombian head of state responded.
As they made their way to the library, the Pope said: “You are the person I have prayed for the most, [I have prayed] very much, very much for the peace process.” Santos replied: “That is why I have come here, to ask for your help.”
After a 20-minute private conversation, the Holy Father greeted the 10-person delegation accompanying the president, including his son Martin; María Angela Olguín, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Maria Lorena Gutierrez, the Deputy Chief of Government.
During the exchange of gifts, the Pope gave President Santos a medallion with the image of St. Martin of Tours tearing his cloak and giving it to a poor person.
“I really like to give this to presidents so that they remember to protect the poor.” The President reported to the Holy Father that “in the last four years, Colombia is the country with the greatest decrease in poverty in Latin America.”
The Holy Father also gave him a copy of his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.
For his part, the Colombian president gave the Pope a handmade earthenware, saying “you can use it when you meet the [council] of cardinals and you can remember us.”
He also gave him a desk flag and two flags, one with the image of a dove, the other of the country, and asked that the Pope bless them.
Following his meeting with the Holy Father, President Santos spoke to journalists on the Pope’s possible visit to Colombia.
“He confirmed that he is going, but I don’t know the dates. The signing of the peace agreement would accelerate the time [of his visit],” he said. President Santos also described his conversation on Colombia with the Jesuit Pope as “frank and sincere.”
The Pope also spoke on dialogue and on “the importance of reconciliation”, as well as on helping to protect the rights of the victims of the conflict. He also offered the Church and himself personally in mediating the peace agreement.
The two also spoke on ecology and the environment, in relation to the Holy Father’s upcoming encyclical, “Laudato sii”.
Concluding his meeting, Pope Francis asked President Santos for prayers. “Pray [that God] illuminates me and also the people of Colombia so that the path of reconciliation can be found,” he said to Santos.