The Vatican Secretariat of State received Monday a delegation from Venezuela affiliated with opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has been recognized by the United States and a dozen other countries as the country’s interim president.
In the meeting, the Vatican’s “grave concern was underlined that a just and peaceful solution be urgently sought to overcome the crisis, respecting human rights and seeking the good of all of the inhabitants of the country and avoiding bloodshed,” Holy See Press Office Interim Director Alessandro Gisotti said Feb. 11.
The Venezuelan delegation was in Rome to meet with Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini in their bid for official recognition. Francisco Sucre, the head of the Venezuelan National Assembly's commission on foreign affairs and Antonio Ledezma, former mayor of Caracas and a former political prisoner, met with Salvini Monday, as well as an undisclosed member of the Vatican Secretariat of State.
The Holy See Press Office did not state who took part in the meeting, but confirmed that it took place.
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.
Both Guaido and Nicolas Maduro currently claim to be Venezuela's legitimate president. Maduro was inaugurated at the start of his second term Jan. 10, following a contested 2018 election. Both the National Assembly and the Venezuelan bishops' conference declared Maduro's reelection to be invalid. Guaidó, president of the National Assembly, declared himself the nation's interim leader Jan. 23. He has pledged a transitional government and free elections.
“The proximity of the Holy Father and of the Holy See to the people of Venezuela was reaffirmed, particularly in regard to those who are suffering,” Gisotti stated.
The meeting came after Pope Francis confirmed last week that he had received a letter from Maduro asking him to mediate in Venezuela, where both
In response, the pope said Feb. 5 that mediation would require the willingness of both parties and “little steps” diplomatically to “start the possibility of dialogue.”
Before becoming Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin served as apostolic nuncio to Venezuela, where he took part in meetings between the bishops' conference and the Venezuelan government under Hugo Chavez. Parolin was Venezuela’s nuncio from 2009 until 2013, the year that Maduro assumed the presidency.
Maduro’s leadership in Venezuela has been marred by violence and social upheaval, with severe shortages and hyperinflation leading millions of Venezuelans to emigrate.
The status of Venezuela’s governance is currently split, as the United States, Canada, and more than a dozen European and South American nations no longer recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s president. China and Russia are among the countries that continue to support Maduro’s leadership.
“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,” Pope Francis said Jan. 28.