Pope prays for Venezuela, blesses poor in Colombia

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I assure all of you of my prayers for each of the
countries of Latin America, and in a special way
for neighboring Venezuela,” Pope Francis said
Pope Francis prayed Sunday for a peaceful end to
Venezuela’s “grave crisis” which has left scores
dead, as he wrapped up a tour to support peace
in neighboring Colombia.
The Argentine pope, 80, spoke during a prayer
service in Cartagena, one of Colombia’s top
tourist draws but also one of its poorest cities, on
the last day of his tour of the country.
“I assure all of you of my prayers for each of the
countries of Latin America, and in a special way
for neighboring Venezuela,” Francis said.
“I appeal for the rejection of all violence in
political life and for a solution to the current
grave crisis, which affects everyone, particularly
the poorest and most disadvantaged of society.”
– ‘Pope should intervene’ –
Venezuela’s crisis has caused food and medicine
shortages and calls for President Nicolas Maduro
to quit.
AFP / PEDRO UGARTE
Colombian faithful take selfies as Pope Francis
leaves San Pedro Claver church in Cartagena,
Colombia on September 10, 2017
Clashes with security forces at anti-government
protests left 125 people dead from April to July.
The Vatican tried to mediate in negotiations last
year between Venezuela’s government and
opposition.
The talks broke down with the sides accusing
each other of bad faith.
Thousands of Venezuelans have fled to Colombia
to escape the crisis.
“We could ask the pope to intervene directly for
dialogue,” said Venezuelan housewife Nancy
Pugliese, 35, who attended Francis’s visit in
Cartagena.
“We need all the spiritual support we can get to
free Venezuela… The pope should tell President
Maduro directly to listen to the people.”
– Venezuelans vote –
On Sunday, Venezuela’s center right-led
opposition was holding a vote to choose
candidates for regional governorship elections
scheduled for October.
The opposition MUD coalition and international
powers have accused Maduro of stifling
democracy by taking over power from state
institutions.
Francis met in Bogota on Thursday with
Venezuelan bishops, who warned him that priests
and nuns had faced threats in their country.
They said in a statement that they “informed him
about the worsening of the crisis and the
radicalization of the government’s stance.”
The statement said Francis “expressed his
concern for the worsening of the humanitarian
crisis.”
– Praying for the poor –
Francis was due to fly back to Rome on Sunday
evening after a four-city tour of Colombia.
During his visit, he pleaded for lasting peace in
Colombia as it moves toward the end of a half-
century civil war.
In Cartagena, he visited the impoverished district
of San Francisco, where he blessed the
foundations of a new homeless shelter.
“We have a lot of faith in Francis’s visit to this
forgotten district,” said Willy Martinez, a 43-year-
old bricklayer.
“Here, there are lots of people who only eat once
a day. The worst thing is the corruption — that is
worse than the bullets of the guerrillas or the
paramilitaries.”
Francis prayed in the name of local holy figures,
including Saint Peter Claver, the patron saint of
slaves, who lived in this colonial port city during
the slave trade.
They “invite us to work to promote the dignity of
all our brothers and sisters, particularly the poor
and the excluded of society,” he said.
“Those who are abandoned, immigrants and
those who suffer violence and human trafficking.”
– Pope gets ‘bashed’ –
Earlier, Francis got a cut on his brow and blood
on his white cape when he bumped into the
window of his Popemobile.
He was standing up in the specially designed
vehicle, waving to admirers, when it braked
sharply and he collided with the glass.
He was seen later with a bruise on his cheek and
a small dressing on his brow, but still smiling.
“I got bashed,” he joked to reporters.