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The Latest: Young Colombians serenade pope as his day ends

Posted September 6

— The latest on Pope Francis' visit to Colombia (all times local):

7 p.m.

Pope Francis has been greeted by a group of youths performing traditional Colombian music and rap upon his arrival to the Vatican embassy in Colombia's capital on Wednesday.

He is scheduled to turn in for the night, after a long flight from Rome.

The youths gave Francis a number of gifts, including a white, wool ruana— a poncho-like outer garment. He immediately slung it over his head as night fell in the high Andean capital.

The pope told the crowd: "Don't ever lose faith and hope." It was his first public remark since arriving after a long flight from Rome. He then repeated his now customary plea to "pray for me."

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6:05 p.m.

Pope Francis is being practically mobbed by well-wishers who've flooded the road taking him 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the airport to the Vatican representative's residence in Bogota.

With no police barricade in sight, devotees got within an arm's length of the Popemobile, leaving Francis' security detail in a precarious situation as they struggled to keep the emotional crowds back.

The brief confusion was reminiscent of a scene in Rio de Janeiro in 2013 when Francis' car was mobbed when it took a wrong turn.

But far from showing concern, the Argentine pope, who is known to adore close contact with the masses, seemed to revel in the sight of so many people garlanding him with flowers, the red-yellow-blue Colombian flags and shouts of "Viva Francisco." He even gave a few high-fives to some youth who got a little too close.

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5 p.m.

Pope Francis is receiving a spirited welcome to Colombia featuring folkloric dancers and entertainers playing both classical music and cumbia.

The pontiff landed in capital of Bogota late Wednesday afternoon to begin a five-day trip that will focus on peace and reconciliation. The country is in the early stages of implementing an historic peace accord signed last year that put an end to Latin America's longest-running conflict.

Colombia's national symphony played songs form Ludwig van Beethoven and Antonio Vivaldi when the pontiff touched land. President Juan Manuel Santos, peace negotiators, indigenous groups and a cohort of artists, athletes and politicians greeted the pope.

Francis smiled while watching the dancers and shook the hands of disabled men and women identified on state television as victims of the conflict.

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4:40 p.m.

The son of a Colombian politician born in captivity after she was kidnapped by the nation's largest rebel group is giving the pope a peace dove.

Clara Rojas' son Emmanuel delivered the white dove sculpture to Pope Francis after the pontiff landed in Bogota on Wednesday.

Rojas was kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in 2002 while traveling with then presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.

Her son Emmanuel was born in 2004 while she was still being held in the jungle. He was taken from her while still a baby.

Rojas did not see her son again until 2008 when he was three.

The boy's plight shocked a nation long before accustomed to the cruelties of armed conflict that left thousands dead.

Francis patted Emmanuel on his head after accepting the dove and shook his hand.

Colombia's government signed a peace accord with the rebel group last year, though many Colombians remain against the accord.

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4:15 p.m.

Pope Francis has arrived in Colombia for a five-day visit in which he hopes to give an extra boost to the country's peace process and encourage reconciliation after a decades-long guerrilla conflict.

Francis has arrived on a flight from Rome at Bogota's military air base. He will greeted by President Juan Manuel Santos and Colombia's national symphonic orchestra playing classics by Vivaldi and Beethoven as well as traditional cumbia music.

The visit has been a few years in the making but was delayed as the Colombian government's negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia stretched on.

Francis was a big promoter of last year's peace deal with the rebel group but in visiting Colombia he will have to be sensitive to the viewpoints of the large number of conservative Roman Catholics who voted against the accord in a nationwide referendum.

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4:05 p.m.

Pope Francis has sent a telegram to U.S. President Donald Trump after flying over U.S. territory en route to Colombia.

The pontiff told Trump he was sending "warm greetings" to the U.S. and "invoking upon all of you almighty God's abundant blessings."

Francis is due in Bogota on Wednesday evening to start a five-day visit aimed at promoting reconciliation as Colombia implements a historic peace process with what was once the nation's largest rebel group.

The pope also sent a message to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after traveling over the Andean nation.

The pope's plane had to change its initial flight path to avoid the powerful Hurricane Irma now churning through the Caribbean.

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2:45 p.m.

Pope Francis is sending a message to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as the plane flying him to Colombia travels over the neighboring Andean nation.

In a telegram to Maduro Wednesday, Francis said he is praying that all those in Venezuela "promote paths of solidarity, justice and concord."

A spokesman for the Vatican says the pope will have a brief greeting with Venezuelan bishops at the end of a Mass Thursday in Bogota.

Francis will be in Colombia for a five-day trip focused on consolidating peace as the nation puts an end to more than five decades of conflict with the country's largest rebel group, but pressure has been building on the pope to speak out against the Venezuelan government.

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11:55 a.m.

A nun who will rap the official hymn welcoming Pope Francis will be among the Colombians eager to greet the pontiff.

Maria Valentina de los Angeles will sing at the pope's Mass on Thursday in Bogota's Simon Bolivar park.

The 29-year-old from Cali raps while wearing a nun's coif and tennis shoes and is part of a Catholic musical group.

Valentina and the group were selected from a contest that drew more than 400 musical acts all vying to sing for the pontiff.

She told The Associated Press Wednesday the pope's trip to Colombia fills her with hope for the nation.

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7:10 a.m.

Colombia's top drug fugitive is showing his face for the first time on occasion of the Pope's visit to the country. He's publishing a video asking Francis to pray that his group be allowed to lay down its weapons as part of the country's peace process.

The U.S. has offered a $5 million bounty for the capture of Dairo Usuga. But in the video released Wednesday he describes himself as a peace-loving, God-fearing peasant who was "forced for 30 years to carry weapons in his defense."

He says he hopes the church can help "in our goal of abandoning our weapons."

Usuga is the alleged head of the much-feared Gulf clan that has terrorized much of northern Colombia and is believed to be the nation's largest drug-trafficking organization.

Usuga himself and many of his gunmen cycled through the ranks of leftist rebel groups and right-wing paramilitaries, but authorities consider the group to be devoid of any political ideology and have rejected its attempts to latch onto the peace process with leftist rebels.

In a second video also published on social media, Usuga says he and his men are willing to lay down their weapons in exchange for legal protection.

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5:45 a.m.

Pope Francis says his pilgrimage to Colombia is aimed at helping the country along its "path of peace."

Speaking to reporters aboard the flight that left Rome Wednesday morning for Bogota, Francis also asked for prayers for another South American nation, Venezuela, hoping it finds "good stability and dialogue with everyone."

Promoting reconciliation is a key goal of Francis' papacy.

Francis' hopes for peace for Colombia were bolstered this week with the signing of a new cease-fire with a holdout rebel group.

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