Pope Francis begins Colombia visit

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Bogota, Sep 7 (IANS) Pope Francis has begun his five-day pastoral visit to Colombia, officia;s said.

On Wednesday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, his wife Maria Clemencia Rodriguez, Apostolic Nuncio to Colombia Ettore Balestrero and Colombian Archbishop Ruben Salazar received the pontiff at Bogota’s Catam military airport on Wednesday, reports Efe news.

Francis was presented with a dove of peace by Emmanuel, a boy born in captivity to Clara Rojas, a politician who spent almost six years as a hostage of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas.

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

The pope broke with protocol, however, to embrace several disabled people, including soldiers and police officers injured in the line of duty, one of whom presented him with a small gift, along with children with Down Syndrome.

Once the welcoming ceremony was concluded, Francisco boarded the pope-mobile for the 15 km trip to the apostolic nunciature, where he would spend the night.

In general, the crowd estimated at at least 900,000 – while enthusiastic and happy – was also quite well-behaved, with no incidents or accidents being reported along the entire route.

–IANS

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