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Pope to Colombia: 'You're Not Alone, Many of Us Want Peace'

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Pope Francis is welcomed by Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos upon his arrival n Bogota

Francis made the remarks Thursday in an address to President Juan Manuel Santos and Colombia's political, cultural and economic elite at the presidential palace at the start of his first full day in Colombia. Promoting such a culture would "help us flee from the temptation of revenge and the satisfaction of short-term partisan interests".

Francis encouraged the Colombian leadership to "look at all those who today are excluded and marginalized", those who "a majority of society sees as having no value and are cast aside". Everyone is needed in the work of creating and shaping society. They're the ones who suffer most from the destruction of land and the devastation of natural habitats, disrupting ancient ways of life that have existed among Colombia's indigenous communities for centuries.

"Don't let yourselves be beaten, don't let yourselves be fooled".

Argentina-born Francis - bearing the brunt of being the first pope from Latin America - was said to be glad to be back in Colombia, a state he visited first after being ordained as a priest and where he is to spend five days.

"We do not want any type of violence whatsoever to restrict or destroy one more life", Francis, who is the first Pope in 31 years to visit Colombia, said.

The violence has left 260,000 people confirmed dead, 60,000 unaccounted for and seven million displaced. Many of those victims came from the poorest strata of Colombian society.

The pope also greeted several children, as well as the ministerial cabinet, including Vice President Oscar Naranjo.

Before Francis, Santos delivered his own speech, in which he thanked the pope for reminding Colombians that the return of the Prodigal son in the Bible has to be celebrated, not because of his acts, but "because he had been lost and was found".

The papal visit, he added, was "a contribution that in some way paves the path to reconciliation and peace" while quoting Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez to stress that famines, plagues, floods and "unending wars" can not "subdue the tenacious advantage of life over death".

"This trip is special because it is a visit to help Colombia to continue forward on the path of peace". Speaking to a local network on Thursday, he said that as he was waiting for his time to greet the pope to come, he wasn't sure how he'd do so, since he couldn't extend his hands to Francis.

Santos, who has promoted the peace accord in the face of stiff opposition, called the Pope's visit a "push" to take the first steps toward peace and reconciliation. "Ending the war is worthless if we still see each other as enemies". That's why were need to reconcile.

On the way to Colombia, the papal flight through the Caribbean was rerouted slightly southwards, to avoid the category-5 Hurricane Irma, the strongest Atlantic storm on record.

"Peace is what Colombia has been seeking for a long time and is working to achieve", the pope said in a video message ahead of his arrival.

Meanwhile, the nation's top drug fugitive, the target of a $5 million manhunt by US authorities, appealed to the Pope to pray that he and his fellow combatants be allowed to lay down their weapons as part of the peace process - a proposal the Colombian government has rejected out of hand. "An advantage which is both increasing and accelerating".

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