The leader of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) has sought Pope Francis's intervention to resolve the decades-long conflict in the Catholic-dominated country. The guerrilla group says it is close to signing a peace deal with the government.
An open letter penned by Timoleon Jimenez, the commander-in-chief of Farc, said the peace initiative was undermined by other armed groups and urged the Argentine pope to deploy necessary assistance.
Hailing the pontiff's intervention in other conflicts by "travelling to one and another place on the planet with your message of love", Jimenez wrote the Vatican should assume a "leading role" in moderating the peace process.
"Paramilitary organisations are untying a criminal offensive in our country, aimed at demoralising the friends of peace, summoning them by force of arms to act against the process, able to intimidate several regions of the country," said the rebel group's leader.
"Their nefarious action coincides with the conspiracy undertaken by political sectors that benefit from the war, stirring people and seeking to mobilize public opinion against the agreements reached."
The southern American nation has been gripped by intense guerrilla conflict — the longest in the continent — for nearly half a century. Though the peace proceedings between the government and the rebel group were initiated in November 2012, a comprehensive reconciliatory deal remains elusive as both the sides have not agreed on the specifics. A formal deadline to sign off the agreement on 23 March was also missed.
The request comes at a time when the pope is increasingly seen wading into politically-charged affairs in several continents. Pope Francis played a key role in improving ties between the US and Cuba — the Cold War rivals whose relations have taken a historical turn in the recent past. The pope has also got himself involved in the unprecedented refugee crisis threatening Europe.