|Vatican||COLOMBIA REBELS VISIT VATICAN|
Colombian rebels and government officials visited the Vatican on Monday to seek the Catholic Church's help in ending their country's 36-year conflict.
Pope John Paul II did not attend the meeting with guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and the Colombian government's peace commissioner. In his place, the pope sent a Vatican official, reported in Colombia to be Italian priest Giorgio Lingua.
Even without the Pope present, participants portrayed the event as a major step forward in efforts to end fighting that has claimed at least 35,000 lives in the South American country.
The meeting was part of a European tour aimed partly at gaining support for the peace process. But government delegates say they are also trying to expose the insular FARC to the modern world.