Pope Francis is visiting Colombia on a five-day tour that many hope will help consolidate the war-torn country.

The Catholic Church has played a significant role in a country that has suffered decades of conflict.

Francis received a tumultuous welcome on Wednesday afternoon as screaming crowds mobbed the popemobile carrying the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics as it made its way slowly from the airport to the Vatican Embassy in central Bogota.

Faithful threw flowers and held up children to be kissed.

"Don't let anyone steal your happiness, don't let anyone steal your hope," Francis told people outside the embassy, his residence during the trip.

Francis, making his 20th foreign trip since becoming pontiff in 2013 and his fifth to his native Latin America, will spend all of Thursday in Bogota and then make day visits to the cities of Villavicencio, Medellin and Cartagena before leaving for Rome on Sunday night.

Francis will encourage reconciliation for Colombians as they prepare to receive 7,000 former FARC rebels into society and aim to repair divisions after a war that killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions over five decades.

Latin America, Colombia, Politics