Pope Francis sent his prayers to Venezuela Sunday to find “a path of peace and unity” as Venezuelans head to polling stations to vote in the country's presidential elections.
“I wish to dedicate a special thought to my beloved Venezuela. I ask the Holy Spirit to give all the Venezuelan people, governors and citizens alike, the wisdom to find the way of peace and unity,” the Argentine Pope said at the end of his address in St. Peter’s Square Sunday. He added that he prayed for those who died in a prison riot in Venezuela Saturday
Vatican representatives in Venezuela have been involved in negotiations between the opposition and the government in the past.
Electoral centers in Venezuela opened their doors at 6:00 a.m. local time. Polls are expected to close at 6:00 p.m., however, those who are waiting to vote will be allowed to cast their ballot beyond the set time.
Incumbent President Nicolas Maduro is seeking re-election. He held more than 30 mass events during the electoral campaign in the country’s 23 states where he presented the fundamental aspects of the “Plan de la Patria” or the plan for the homeland 2019-2025, a government project that received thousands of proposals from the Venezuelan people.
During his weekly Sunday address, the Argentine Pope also said he would elevate 14 Roman Catholic prelates to the high rank of cardinal, the elite group of churchmen who are his closest advisers and can enter a conclave to choose his successor if they are under 80.
Appointing new cardinals is one of the most significant powers of a Pope, allowing him to steer the future of the 1.2 billion member Catholic Church. He said the consistory would take place on June 29.