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Pope Francis in Colombia prays for peace and stability

Latin America's first pope was greeted by massive crowds in the wake of a freshly minted peace deal. He told jubilant crowds not to lose hope in the pursuit of lasting peace.

Pope Francis prayed for stability in Venezuela and pleaded for lasting peace in Colombia as he toured Bogota on Wednesday.

The 80-year-old Argentine pontiff's white popemobile was surrounded by jubilant crowds that descended on the 15-kilometer (9-mile) road from the airport to the center.

He told Colombians he wanted to bring a message of hope as they worked to unite the country in the wake of Latin America's longest-running armed conflict.

Read more: Nicolas Maduro asks Pope Francis to help avert US invasion

"Continue on the path that you have been brave enough to start, which is called heroism," he told the young people.

"Don't let yourselves be beaten, don't let yourselves be fooled. Do not lose joy. Do not lose hope."

Watch video 02:39

Colombians share high hopes for visit from Pope Francis

FARC disarmed, ELN pledge peace

His trip came after the disarmament of Colombia's FARC rebels, and a ceasefire with the country's last remaining guerrilla force, the ELN.

Read more: Colombia strikes ceasefire deal with ELN guerrilla group

The pope said he supported Santos' quest for a "complete peace" to end the civil war.

But Francis first addressed the growing unrest in neighboring Venezuela, amid President Nicolas Maduro's clampdown on the opposition and an economic crisis.

Francis sent his "cordial greetings" to Maduro and the Venezuelan people, "praying that all in the nation may promote paths of solidarity, justice and concord."

Francis was greeted by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who told reporters: "The Holy Father is now in Colombian territory. He has come for a very special purpose: to push us to take the first step to reconciling with one another."

Read more: FARC deal leaves Colombians out to dry

Francis was expected to call on Colombian leaders to address the social and economic disparities that helped fuel the conflict and to encourage forgiveness among a people divided over the terms of the peace deal.

"Peace is what Colombia has been looking for and working for such a long time," he said in a video message before the trip. "A stable and lasting peace, so that we can see one another and treat one another as brothers, not as enemies."

Former President Alvaro Uribe, who strongly opposed the peace deal, wrote a letter to Francis on Tuesday saying the peace deal had fueled a rise in drug trafficking and created economic uncertainties with the potential to destroy Colombia's social fabric.

aw/bw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

Watch video 00:32

FARC rebels complete disarmament

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