(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has written to the leaders of government and the opposition in Venezuela, urging a peaceful and negotiated solution to the ongoing political crisis.
The Holy Father’s message was read out by Archbishop Aldo Giordano, the Apostolic Nuncio in Caracas at the start of a much-anticipated meeting Thursday night between President Nicolas Maduro and key members of the opposition.
Pope Francis writes that he is aware of the “restlessness and pain felt by so many people”, and expresses his closes to the victims of violence and their families, while at the same reiterating his deep conviction that violence can never bring peace only more violence.
Thursday's talks, which were televised, are first major effort at reconciliation since anti-government protests broke out in Venezuelan cities in early February. Key leaders of the opposition, including two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, agreed to sit down with Maduro after receiving assurances that the socialist government is willing to discuss divisive issues such as an amnesty for jailed government opponents and the creation of an independent truth commission to investigate who's to blame for at least 40 deaths tied to the unrest. The Holy See was also invited to take part in the talks as a neutral observer.
In his letter, Pope Francis calls on those participating in the talks “not to get stuck in the conflict of the moment” but to open themselves to one another “to become true builders of peace”. He also asks them to have the courage to look beyond their differences for the good of the Venezuelan people and their own children’s future.
They can do this, he says, by focusing on what unites them rather than what divides them: their love for their Nation, their faith in God, their shared concerns for the consequences of the economic crisis, such as rising rates of violence and crime.
Pope Francis concludes, that the path of dialogue is a long and difficult one but the only one that can lead to true justice and peace.
Below a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s letter to President Nicolas Maduro Moros, members of Government, representatives of the Mesa de Unidad Democratica and UNASUR leaders.
“Firstly, I desire to thank you for inviting the Holy See to take part in this process of dialogue and peace for your beloved country. I assure each of you of my prayers, so that this meeting and the process you are undertaking bear the desired fruits of national reconciliation and peace, gifts that we invoke from God, for the Venezuelan population.
I am aware of the restlessness and pain that many people are experiencing, and while I express my concern for what is taking place, I renew my affection for all Venezuelans, especially for the victims of violence and their families. I am deeply convinced that violence can never bring peace and wellbeing to a country, because it only ever generates more violence. On the contrary, through dialogue you can rediscover common and shared ground that will help to overcome the current moment of conflict and polarization, which profoundly wounds Venezuela, to find new forms of collaboration. In respect and recognition of the differences that exist in your country, the common good can be favored. In fact, all of you share in the love you have for your nation and its people. You also share concerns linked to the economic crisis, violence and criminality. You all care deeply about your children’s future and desire that peace which distinguishes the Venezuelan people. You all share faith in God and the will to defend the dignity of the human person.
This is what draws you together and urges you to undertake a process of dialogue which begins today, which must be rooted in an authentic culture of encounter, aware that unity must always prevail over conflict. Therefore, `I urge you not to get stuck in the conflict of the moment but open yourselves to one another to become true builders of peace. At the heart of all sincere dialogue is reciprocal recognition and respect . Above all, there is the “heroism” of forgiveness and mercy, which free us from resentment, from hate and open up a road that is truly new. It is a long and difficult road, which requires patience and courage, but it is the only one that can lead to justice and peace. For the good of all your people and the future of your children, I ask you to have this courage.
With these sentiments I accompany the dear Venezuelan nation, and upon each of you I impart my Apostolic Blessing, invoking the help of Our Lord”.
Text from Vatican Radio website