Pope Francis has left Rome for a six-day papal visit to Colombia. He follows in the footsteps of Pope Paul VI and Pope Saint John Paul II, who travelled to Colombia in 1964 and in 1986 respectively. This will be Francis’ 20th journey abroad , but not his easiest, as his flight has had to be diverted to avoid Hurricane Irma.
The Catholic church has suffered some turbulence itself in recent years in Latin America, seeing its congregation increasingly poached by American Evangelist churches, but the Argentine-born Francis has in part reversed that trend.
Colombians expressed their hopes for the upcoming visit, and the country is pulling out all the stops to ensure he is given a warm welcome.
“The visit of a man like the Pope can give support to peace and a very, very important hope to the Colombian people,” said one man.
The papal visit also comes at a time when a 50-year guerilla war in the country appears to have been ended by dialogue and negotiation.
“FARC for 50 years has fought in the Amazon rain forest. This is the right moment now. Welcome Pope Francis,” said another man.
Weather permitting Francis is due to touch down in Bogata during the night, European time, and crowds are expected to follow his every move.