Pope Francis told Venezuelans involved in a first session of dialogues held Thursday that violence can never bring peace to their country as it “generates always and only violence.”
His message, addressed to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro Moros as well as the opposition leaders, was given through the Vatican’s nuncio in the country, Archbishop Aldo Giordano.
Giordano succeeded Cardinal Pietro Parolin in that post as the cardinal now serves as Francis’ secretary of state.
The dialogue that began Thursday is meant to bring an end to the violence that has plagued Venezuela since mid-February, as protestors — including a large bloc of students — demand security and economic changes to end the food shortages and crime affecting the country. Some 40 people have been killed in the weeks of protests and at least 2,000 have been arrested.
Last Wednesday, the Vatican was invited to form a part in the dialogue, and is being represented by Archbishop Giordano. After the first session, groups agreed to resume the dialogue Tuesday.
‘I beg you to have this courage’
Francis’ message assured the Venezuelan people of his closeness, noting how he hopes that prayers “will bear the desired fruits of national reconciliation and peace, gifts that we invoke from God for all the Venezuelan people.”
He immediately acknowledged the suffering that has plagued the nation and discussed the violence.
The Pope said, “I am utterly convinced that violence will never bring peace and well-being to a country, as it generates always and only violence. On the contrary, through dialogue you can rediscover the common and shared basis which leads to surmounting the present moment of conflict and polarization that wounds Venezuela so profoundly, to find ways of collaboration.”
He further underscored dialogue and its role in restoring a nation. He noted that Venezuelans can foster the common good if they acknowledge and respect differences within parties.
Highlighting common attributes of the nation’s people, Francis continued, “All of you, in fact, share love for your country and its people, as well as the grave concerns connected with the economic crisis, the violence and criminality. All of you bear in your heart the future of your children and the desire for peace that characterizes Venezuelans. All of you have in common faith in God and the will to defend the dignity of the human person.”
Pope Francis further encouraged Venezuelans to undertake this dialogue and to be a “genuine culture of encounter” in which individuals understand that peace must prevail over conflict.
Concluding his address, the Holy Father gave the Venezuelans an invitation: “I invite you to not concentrate on the circumstances of the conflict, but to open yourselves to one another to become and to be genuine peacemakers. At the center of every sincere dialogue is, first of all, recognition and respect for the other. Above all is the ‘heroism’ of forgiveness and mercy, which rescue us from resentment and hatred and opens a really new way. It is a long and difficult path, which calls for patience and courage, but it is the only one that can lead to peace and justice. For the good of the whole nation and for the future of your children, I beg you to have this courage.”
He then imparted his apostolic blessing on the people of Venezuela, invoking the Lord’s help. (D.C.L.)
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