GARTAGENA, Colombia – Pope Francis renewed his plea for Venezuela on Sunday while in nearby Colombia, asking for a peaceful solution for the “grave crisis” the country is experiencing.
“From this place, I want to assure all of my prayer for each one of the countries of Latin America, and in a special way for the neighboring Venezuela,” Francis said after his Sunday Angelus prayer from the shrine of St. Peter Claver, in downtown Cartagena.
“I express my closeness to each one of the sons and daughters of this beloved nation, as well as those who’ve found in this Colombian soil a place of welcome,” he said.
From Cartagena, which he labeled as a center of human rights, he made an appeal for “every kind of violence to be rejected in political life, and for a solution to be found for the grave crisis [the country] is living and which affects everyone, in particular the poorest and most disadvantaged of society.”
The Venezuelan question has been looming throughout the trip, with the main question being “will he or won’t he” refer to the matter. On the way to Colombia from Rome for his Sept. 6-11 outing to Colombia, Francis answered that question by making a special appeal, asking journalists to pray not only for his trip, but also for the embattled country of Venezuela, so that it might achieve a “beautiful stability.”
On the flight over, as is customary, Francis sent a telegram to the president of all the countries the plane flew over, including Venezuela.
Addressed to President Nicolas Maduro, the note said he was praying so that everyone in the country may “promote paths of solidarity, justice, and concord.”
On Thursday, after celebrating a Mass for 1.1 million people, the pope also met with five bishops from Venezuela, in an encounter that lasted 10 minutes, enough for the prelates to update him about the country’s worsening situation.
“We were very satisfied with the meeting, and the pope invited us to have hope and to communicate hope to the Venezuelan people,” Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino told Crux over the phone after their meeting.
“We cannot lose hope, we cannot give up,” he said. “We have to defend our rights and those of others. We have to act within the frame of the constitution and the laws, but we have to do something.”
The country is currently in great political turmoil, with shortage of food to the point of people starving to death, and there’s lack of basic medicines in local hospitals.
Due to Venezuela’s ongoing crisis, an estimated one million people have crossed the border into Colombia in the last three years, as a direct result to the “Bolivarian revolution,” started by President Hugo Chavez and perpetuated by Maduro.