The Holy See press officer Fr. Federico Lombardi explained Tuesday that the Vatican is considering mediation in Venezuela's lethal protests, but will take time and care in doing so.

“There is a need to better explore the perspective and the basis through which the Holy See may be useful to reconciliation in Venezuela,” he said April 1.

Student protests began across the nation's cities early in February, but escalated when three people were killed. The Bolivarian National Guard has been criticized for an unnecessarily strong response to demonstrators, who are urging greater protection of freedom of speech, better security, and an end to goods shortages. At least 39 have been killed during the protests.

Fr. Lombardi stressed March 29 that “the Holy See, and also personally the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin — who knows well and loves Venezuela, where he served as nuncio — willing and desirous to do whatever is possible for the good and serenity of the country.”

Three days later, the spokesman “slowed down” on the possibility of Vatican mediation in the South American nation.

According to Vatican Radio journalist Luis Badilla, Fr. Lombardi's April 1 statement stresses that “relevant progress has not been made, meaning that the facility of mediation is a ways off, since it cannot as yet be practiced.” On March 31, the day prior to Fr. Lombardi's second statement, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas said the nation's government had not requested the Holy See's mediation.

“The president has said he is willing to receive a Vatican delegation, but there has been no official communication,” he told Globovision. “The government should be the one to take the initiative. Once it does so, the nunciature will be able to move forward in the process which I hope will occur.”

The Holy See has been called upon several times by outsiders as a possible mediator, but the Secretariat of State wishes to act with caution in the matter.

Cardinal Parolin served as apostolic nuncio to Venezuela from 2009 to 2013, and was succeeded by Archbishop Aldo Giordano a few weeks after his appointment as Secretary of State. During his time as apostolic nuncio “then-Archbishop Parolin tried to stand in the middle and not to cause too many splits with the Venezuelan government,” a source in the Secretariat of State told CNA April 2. Venezuela at the time was led by Hugo Chavez, a Marxist who died March 5, 2013, and was succeeded by his protege Nicolas Maduro, whose government is the subject of the current protests.

At a time when dialogue between the government and the opposition is seemingly unattainable, “the Secretary of State would act cautiously, not engaging the Holy See in a fruitless mediation,” the source added. The Secretariat of State is thus demonstrating a strong pragmatism in its diplomacy diplomacy; a source in the Vatican told CNA April 2 that “such a degree of caution may mean the Secretariat of State is unsure of what importance its diplomatic role will be,” in light of curial reform. Despite this, the source maintained that “at the moment, no reform of Vatican diplomacy seems to be on the table,  nor is it in the offing.”

Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, apostolic nuncio to Ukraine, told CNA April 2 there are “three essential components of secular diplomacy: respect for natural law; a firm commitment to uphold international law; and the capability of using deterrence through force (not necessarily military, but also economic).” Archbishop Gullickson stressed that “despite the fact that 1 billion Catholics throughout the world would have recourse to the Holy Father as their leader, this does not mean that he could either raise an army or invite us to boycott, ostracize, or otherwise tangibly penalize a misbehaving country or its ruler.”

This, he said, is why “in recent years there have been calls for the Holy See to withdraw from the arena of secular diplomacy.” This is “a pragmatic argument, which holds especially since the community of nations does not seem troubled by the presence of the Holy See in this arena, at least as far as bilateral relations go.”

Under Cardinal Parolin, the Secretariat of State is now seemingly following this pragmatic approach. Despite calls for its mediation, the Holy See will do so only if there exist the proper conditions to carry out the mediation positively. If these do not exist, the Holy See will avoid the risk of being instrumentalized by the parties fighting in Venezuela. Within Venezuela, the Church has stated its desire to participate in a dialogue and a peace process, encouraging the abandonment of violence, pride, and anger.

Members of the Bolivarian National Guard stormed a neighborhood in Tachira March 22, threatening a group of the faithful gathered together to pray the rosary for peace in the country, La Nacion reported.