In leaked letter to 'Mr. Maduro,' Pope Francis reiterates call for peace

shutterstock 1106311889 A woman holds a cartoon of Nicolas Maduro during opposition rally. | Edgloris Marys / Shutterstock

Pope Francis has sent a letter to Nicolas Maduro responding to a recent invitation to mediate in the Venezuelan political crisis, according to an Italian newspaper. 

On Feb. 13, the Milan daily newspaper Corriere Della Sera published a report saying that the pope had written to Maduro reiterating his desire for the avoidance of violence in the country. 

According to the article, the pope wrote on Feb. 7 that previous peace efforts in Venezuela were "interrupted because what had been agreed in the meetings was not followed by concrete gestures to implement the agreements." 

"The Holy See clearly indicated what were the conditions for dialogue to be possible" in December 2016 in "a series of requests," it went on to say. 

The Holy See did not comment on the letter, citing the private nature of the correspondence. 

The Corriere della Sera report only quoted fragments of the alleged letter, including Francis' reiteration of his desire to "avoiding any form of bloodshed" and his concern for "the suffering of the noble Venezuelan people, which seems to have no end." 

The newspaper noted, however, that Pope Francis addressed Maduro as "señor," rather than "president." 

Two men currently claim to be the legitimate president of Venezuela: Nicolas Maduro and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido. 

After winning a contested election in which opposition candidates were barred from running or imprisoned, wide-spread protests followed Maduro's Jan. 10 inauguration, 

Juan Guaido declared himself as interim president on Jan. 23. Since then, numerous governments across the world, including the United States, have recognized Guaido as the legitimate interim leader of the country, though Maduro remains in effective power supported by the military. 

Maduro's leadership of Venezuela during his previous term was marred by violence and social upheaval, with severe shortages and hyperinflation leading millions of Venezuelans to emigrate. 

On Monday, Vatican Secretariat of State unofficially received a delegation from Venezuela affiliated with Guaido and discussed human rights, the common good, and "avoiding bloodshed" in Venezuela. 

Following international recognition of Guaido in January, Maduro wrote a letter to Pope Francis asking him to mediate in the political situation in Venezuela. 

Pope Francis has sought to maintain neutrality on Venezuela, telling reporters Jan. 28 it would be "pastoral imprudence" on his part to choose a side in the current split in Venezuela. 

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 Guaido in an effort to mobilize the entrance of humanitarian aid to the crisis-stricken country. 

Cardinal Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo, Apostolic Administrator of Caracas, called the proposal for Vatican mediation "non-viable" in a Feb. 6 radio interview

In a Feb. 8 interview with CNA, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a key advisor and strategist on Venezuela for the Trump administration, said that previous attempts by the Vatican to lead negotiations with Maduro had been a "fiasco." 

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Pope Francis said Jan. 28, "I support in this moment all of the Venezuelan people - it is a people that is suffering - including those who are on one side and the other. All of the people are suffering."

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