Pope Francis is “particularly worried that violence not be used” during the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela.
The Vatican ambassador to Venezuela, Archbishop Aldo Giordano, said the pope is “very concerned” about the country, after meeting with the pontiff earlier this week.
Giordano told Vatican Radio he informed the pope about what is happening on the ground, including the lack of food and medicine.
A transcript of the interview was published on the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference website on June 29.
“Unfortunately, we can’t yet see any light, but the Pope has been encouraging us to find paths of solidarity, ways of giving hope to the people, maintaining faith and also reiterated that the Holy See is available to offer help if new possibilities of some kind of negotiation come up, or when there is an authentic will to tackle the problem,” Giordano said.
Over 70 people have been killed in Venezuela since massive protests began last April, and thousands have been wounded.
During short-lived talks last year between the government of Nicolas Maduro and the opposition – which controls the legislative assembly – the Vatican took part, but remained neutral in the hopes of brokering a deal between both sides.
During this period, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who previously served as the Vatican representative to Venezuela, sent a letter laying out several conditions for the talks to continue: Allowing humanitarian aid to reach those who need it, the recognition of the National Assembly, the release of political prisoners, and allowing elections.
The talks quickly went nowhere after Maduro failed to release political prisoners or any other part of the negotiations’ conditions.
Earlier this year, when the president announced a constitutional reform was in the works (a “reform” which many say aims to neuter the opposition), the bishops released a statement opposing the measure.
The Catholic bishops in the country have strongly opposed the authoritarian actions of the government, and in response gangs with ties to the government have attacked churches, bishops and priests. Masses have even been interrupted by pro-government militants.
Giordano said the pope “knows the political and social situation very well, and is concerned.”
The Vatican diplomat said Francis expressed his solidarity for the victims of violence, especially young people and their families.
“He always says we have to help Venezuela,” Giordano said.
“The people are suffering,” the archbishop continued. “We hope that the welfare of Venezuelans will be a priority for all political forces.”
Giordano said it is important for this to take place before the political process to find a solution can begin.
Earlier this month, the Venezuelan bishops also met with Francis.
“He … told us that we have his full trust, and we have a great communion with him and his magisterium, so there’s no distance between him and the conference,” said Archbishop Diego Padrón, president of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, talking to reporters hours after the group met Francis.
A week after that meeting, Maduro gave Giordano a letter for the pope asking him to mediate in the crisis, a three-page text in which the Venezuelan president speaks of “actions of vandalism” by the “forces of darkness” that “yearn for a military intervention by the United States.”