The Pope's Plea for Peace in Colombia

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

On Sunday, Pope Francis celebrated mass before thousands of Cubans in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución. He spoke of the gospels and made a somewhat cryptic warning about being jealous of one’s neighbors. But he also spent time talking about a nation farther south: Colombia.

“At this time I feel bound to direct my thoughts to the beloved land of Colombia,”  he said. (I’m using the English translation pre-circulated by the Vatican’s press office.) “May the blood shed by thousands of innocent people during long decades of armed conflict, united to that of the Lord Jesus Christ crucified, sustain all the efforts being made, including those on this beautiful island, to achieve definitive reconciliation.”

This isn’t a random choice—since at least June, the pope has been publicly pushing for a peace agreement in the country.

He met with President Juan Manuel Santos at the Vatican and dangled the possibility of a papal visit if the government could come to an agreement with the country’s rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

It’s telling that the pope chose to talk about this specific topic while he’s in Cuba, right before his visit to the U.S. Last year, he helped ease the tensions between those two countries, writing a letter with a plea for reconciliation to U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro. President Obama even gave Francis’s “moral example” a shout-out in a press conference about Cuba.

Now, the pope is taking on one of Latin America’s most prolonged and vicious conflicts. “Please,” he said on Sunday, “we do not have the right to allow ourselves yet another failure on this path of peace and reconciliation.”