RELIGION

Pope Francis seeks to unite Colombians divided by peace deal

  • Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos acknowledges applauds after receiving the Nueva Economia Forum award at the Royal theater in Madrid, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

    Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos acknowledges applauds after receiving the Nueva Economia Forum award at the Royal theater in Madrid, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)  (The Associated Press)

  • Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos acknowledges applauds after receiving the Nueva Economia Forum award at the Royal theater in Madrid, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

    Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos acknowledges applauds after receiving the Nueva Economia Forum award at the Royal theater in Madrid, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)  (The Associated Press)

Pope Francis is doing his part to unite Colombians divided by a peace deal with leftist rebels by sponsoring a surprise meeting between President Juan Manuel Santos and his harshest critic.

Colombia's government says Santos will meet Friday at the Vatican with his predecessor in the presidency, Alvaro Uribe.

The popular and conservative Uribe led opposition to Santos' peace accord with FARC rebels that led to the deal's surprise rejection in an October referendum. Santos then introduced several changes to appease his critics but he failed to get Uribe's support when the revised accord was ratified this month by congress.

Earlier on Thursday, Uribe excused himself from a debate in the Senate, saying he had to rush to Rome to attend a last-minute meeting requested by Pope Francis.