Colombia’s second-largest rebel group ELN are looking forward to the Catholic church playing a “key role” in anticipated peace talks with the government, according to the group’s central commander. 

In an interview published by newspaper El Tiempo on Sunday, alias “Antonio Garcia” said that the ELN is “ready” for peace talks, and that they are being held up by a “lack of government willpower.”

Garcia heralded the new Pope Francis’ efforts to promote peace in Colombia.

“It has been really gratifying to hear Pope Francis talk about peace in Colombia,” said Garcia. “His messages against greed, poverty, fierce capitalism, and in favor of social justice, give a new feeling for the life of the great marginalized majorities and the exploited people of the world.”

In contrast to larger Colombian and Lenin-Marxist inspired rebel group FARC, the ELN, formed in 1964, has strong historical ties with the Catholic faith. In its formative years during the 1960s and 1970s the ELN was directed by a series of Catholic priests espousing Liberation Theology – a political movement that interprets the teachings of Jesus Christ in relation to unjust political-economic and social conditions.

For its part, the Catholic Church in Colombia has expressed “immense happiness” at the possibility of peace talks between the country’s government and the ELN.

MORE: Catholic Church declares ‘immense happiness’ at prospect of ELN peace talks

The government are currently in peace talks with the FARC in Havana, Cuba. They will have been running for a year on November 18.


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