By Courtney Grogan
Nicolas Maduro wrote a letter to Pope Francis asking him to mediate in the political situation in Venezuela, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin confirmed Monday.
After more than a dozen Western countries — including the U.S. — recognized the head of Venezuela’s parliament, Juan Guaidò, as the interim president of Venezuela, the status of Venezuela’s governance faces a profound split as Russia, China, Bolivia, Cuba, Iran, and others continue to support Maduro’s presidency.
Responding to the legitimacy crisis, Maduro said in a television interview with Italian Feb. 4 that he had sent a letter to Rome asking the pope to “help us on the path of dialogue.”
“The Pope knows that I am a practitioner of faith. I pray, a Christian of prayer and action. And with this spirit I asked for help,” Maduro told Sky Tg24.
The successor of Hugo Chávez, Maduro’s presidency of Venezuela has been marred by violence and social upheaval with severe shortages and hyperinflation leading millions of Venezuelans to emigrate.
Maduro was sworn in for a second term Jan. 10, after winning a contested election in which opposition candidates were barred from running or imprisoned. Amidst the protests that followed, Guaido declared himself interim president Jan. 23, pledging a transitional government and free elections.
Pope Francis, who is currently visiting Abu Dhabi for an interreligious meeting, has maintained a strict neutrality on Venezuela. On his return trip from Panama last week, the pope told reporters that it would be “pastoral imprudence” on his part to choose a side in the current split in Venezuela.
“I support in this moment all of the Venezuelan people – it is a people that is suffering – including those who are one side and the other. All of the people are suffering,” the pope said Jan. 28. Francis then called for “a just and peaceful solution” without bloodshed.
Speaking to reporters in Abu Dhabi, Cardinal Parolin said Feb. 4 that Maduro’s letter “relaunches dialogue” in Venezuela, ANSA reported.
Venezuela’s bishops have taken a less neutral stance, calling Maduro’s election “illegitimate” and backing opposition marches in January. On Feb. 1, Venezuela’s bishops met with Juan Guaido in an effort to mobilize the entrance of humanitarian aid to the crisis-stricken country.
The Archbishop Emeritus of Caracas Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino told ACIPrensa Jan. 29, “I hope Maduro, who always appeals to the pope’s words, heeds those calls [for peace], and steps down from office since his administration has been absolutely harmful for the Venezuelan people.”
On Feb. 7, European Union representatives will meet in Uruguay to discuss a peaceful resolution of the political situation in Venezuela with delegates from Mexico, Bolivia, Costa Rica, and Ecuador with the hope that it will lead to future transparent and credible elections in Venezuela.