Pope Francis confirmed on Thursday that he plans to visit Colombia this year.
In an interview with German newspaper “Die Zeit,” the Catholic Church’s top clergy said that “the countries I plan to visit are India, Bangladesh, and Colombia, one day in Fatima (Portugal), and as far as I know, a study trip to Egypt is also planned.”
The announcement confirmed President Juan Manuel Santos‘ claim made last September that Pope Francis would visit the Andean nation in 2017.
According to the President, the pope was only willing to visit Colombia providing the peace deal with the FARC was signed.
The accord was eventually signed on November 24th, effectively ensuring the papal visit.
The pope has been an active supporter of Colombia’s peace process and has invited Colombian Catholics to continue working in favor of “dialogue and understanding” throughout the 10-year process that seeks to end more than half a century of violence.
In a letter sent from the Vatican in 2015, Pope Francis referred to the need to “fight tirelessly against any form of injustice, inequality, corruption and exclusion, which destroy the very life of society.”
Following the signing of the peace deal, Pope Francis held a meeting with Santos and ex-President Alvaro Uribe in an effort to mediate over the rift between the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the most important opponent of the peace process.
Despite the papal intervention, Uribe has continued resisting the peace process that includes a transitional justice tribunal in charge of investigating the thousands of assassinations of civilians carried out by the military under the watch of both Uribe and Santos.
The leader of the Catholic Church has previously intervened to help in dialogue between the US and Cuba.
Pope Francis will become the third pope to visit Colombia, after Paul VI in 1968 and John Paul II in 1986.