Answering an invitation from Venezuela's foreign affairs minister to participate in the country’s peace talks, Pope Francis sent a letter to all parties involved, encouraging them to foster open dialogue. “I am deeply convinced that violence can never bring peace and wellbeing to a country, because it only ever generates more violence,” the Pope stated in his April 10 letter. “On the contrary, through dialogue you can rediscover common and shared ground that will help to overcome the current moment of conflict.” Pope Francis’ message was read aloud by Archbishop Aldo Giordano, the Apostolic Nuncio in Caracas, at the beginning of the highly-anticipated meeting Thursday night between President Nicolas Maduro and key members of the opposition, including two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles. Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs Elias Jaua initially sent a letter to the Vatican, which was published on April 9, inviting the Holy See to participate in the National Peace Conference that which has been convened by President Nicolas Maduro. The move came after a meeting between Venezuela government officials and the opposition, during which both sides agreed that the Holy See could join in the peace process. In his letter, addressed to President Nicolas Maduro Moros, members of Government, representatives of the Mesa de Unidad Democratica and UNASUR leaders, Pope Francis thanked them for the invitation to participate, and assured them of his prayers that the meetings will result in peace and reconciliation for the country. “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,” he expressed. Going on, the pontiff explained that he is “deeply convinced” that violence can never foster peace, but that only through dialogue will they “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.” Out of “respect and recognition of the differences that exist in your country, the common good can be favored” the Pope affirmed, highlighting how “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,” he continued, “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.” Pope Francis then urged the leaders “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,” noted the pontiff, adding that “above all, there is the ‘heroism’ of forgiveness and mercy, which frees us from resentment, from hate and opens up a road that is truly new.” Observing that it is “a long and difficult road, which requires patience and courage,” the Roman Pontiff explained that it is the only path “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.”
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