Pope Francis sent a message to Venezuelan bishops, amid a wave of protests across the country, against the government of President Nicolás Maduro, which has left more than 30 dead.
"I assure you that I am following with great concern the situation of the beloved Venezuelan people in the face of the grave problems that afflict it," said the Pontiff in his letter Friday. "I feel a deep sorrow for the confrontations and violence of these days, which have caused numerous deaths and injuries, and which do not help to solve the problems, but only cause more suffering and pain."
The Catholic leader called on Venezuelan church leaders to warn against"any form of violence," adding that "the serious problems of Venezuela can be solved If there is a will to establish bridges, to dialogue seriously and to comply with the agreements reached."
The Pope, who has repeatedly urged dialogue between sectors in Venezuela, recently criticized a section of the opposition for not being disposed to talks.
Despite Pope Francis' calls, Venezuelan opposition leaders said they would not participate in the National Constituent Assembly convened by President Nicolas Maduro to rewrite the constitution.
"(The process) is not a Constituent, we could hardly go to an absolutely fraudulent process, we Venezuelans will not be part of a fraud," leader of the opposition MUD coalition, Henrique Capriles, said Sunday.
President Maduro called for a National Constituent Assembly with the goal of easing the ongoing political tensions and supporting dialogue with the opposition. Maduro invoked article 347 of the Bolivarian Constitution, which allows for the convening of a national constituent assembly with the purpose of “transforming the state," and Venezuela's electoral authority approved the initiation of the process this
Despite previously calling for a constituent assembly, the opposition has rejected the call and set off a fresh wave of protests which have led to the deaths of some three dozen people in just over a month.
On Saturday, the mediators from the Union of South American Nations, or Unasur, met in Santo Domingo in the hopes of restarting dialogue to easing tensions and resolving Venezuela's political and economic woes.
Former president Leonel Fernández (Dominican Republic), Martín Torrijos (Panama), and Ernesto Samper (Colombia) along with former head of the Spanish government José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, are attempting to relaunch talks between the government and the opposition, after the latter the withdrew from the talks in October, accusing the Government of breaking the agreements reached.