ROME – Pope Francis on Wednesday set off on a five-day trip to the South American country of Colombia that would see him making stops in the cities of Bogota, Villavicencio, Medellin and Cartagena.
The Alitalia aircraft carrying the pontiff took off from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport shortly after 11 am local time, its flight path having been changed in order to avoid Hurricane Irma, a cyclone that has reached category 5, the maximum classification, that is currently active in the Caribbean Sea.
“Dear Friends, please pray for me and all of Colombia, where I will be traveling for a journey dedicated to reconciliation and peace,” Pope Francis said in a tweet before his trip.
The visit will be the pope’s 20th international voyage and fifth to his home continent of Latin America since he took over as head of the Catholic church.
The papal plane was expected to land at the CATAM military airport at 4.30 pm local time, with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his wife, Maria Clemencia Rodriguez Munera, waiting there to greet him.
A welcome ceremony complete with Colombian folk dance would be laid on, though there would be no speeches as the visit officially begins on Thursday.
Upon leaving the airport, the pope would be driven some 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) in the pope-mobile to the Nunciature, where he would meet members of Colombian society and offer his blessings.