Pope Francis today received in audience the president of the Republic of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, who subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.
The Vatican press office reported: “The discussions took place in an atmosphere of great cordiality, confirming the existing good relations between the Holy See and Colombia. Appreciation was expressed for the Pope’s support during the peace process, along with the hope that such peace be stable and lasting. In this regard, the parties highlighted the importance of encounter and unity between the Colombian political parties and the commitment of FARC-EP, while the local Church will be able to offer her contribution in favour of national reconciliation and education in forgiveness and harmony. Some issues relating to regional current affairs were then addressed.”
The Holy Father went on to meet Senator Álvaro Uribe Vélez, first in private audience and then together with President Santos. The Pope spoke about the “culture of encounter” and emphasised the importance of sincere dialogue between all members of Colombian society at this historical moment.
The meeting with Uribe was not on the original schedule and he just arrived in Rome this morning.
After four years of talks in Havana, Santos’ government arrived at an agreement to end the 52-year war with the FARC rebel army. However in October, Colombians narrowly rejected the agreement in a referendum. Uribe, who was president before Santos, led the push to reject the referendum, saying that the government should have pulled for stricter measures with FARC.
Late last month, Santos and the FARC leader signed a revised deal, which Congress ratified a week later.
The Pope said in October that he might visit Colombia, “but I would like to go, when everything is ‘airtight.’ In other words, when everything – if the referendum is successful – when everything is safe, that there will be no going back and the international community, all the nations, are in agreement, that there will be no appeal, when everything is over… In this case, I could go. But if things are unstable… It all depends on what the people say. The people are sovereign.”