Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to Meet with Pope Francis

Apostolic Nuncio Hopes Meeting will Foster Dialogue Between Government and Local Church

Vatican City, (Zenit.org) H. Sergio Mora | 1019 hits

On Monday, June 17, Pope Francis will receive President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, according to the calendar of activities published by the Vatican. “Yes, it is confirmed, because the audience was granted by the Pope and we have communicated it to the Government,” said Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Apostolic Nuncio to Venezuela told ZENIT in a telephone interview. “I have spoken today with someone at the Ministry who said that the Holy See has confirmed it,” he reiterated.

“Up to now at least, the Government of Venezuela has not announced it formally, but the Vatican has already indicated it. I think the Government of Venezuela is interested in meeting the Pope,” specified Archbishop Parolin.

At the Palace of Miraflores, continued the nuncio, “they are interested in having good relations with the Holy See and we hope that this will help to maintain good relations with the local Church, because this is the main point.”

The Holy See’s representative in Caracas said he was convinced “that, with his style and concerns, Pope Francis will be able to get along well,” with the President. What is important, he stressed, is that there should be “a good relation with the local Church.”

This will be the first time the Venezuelan President meets the Holy Father, as he was absent on March 19 from the ceremony of the beginning of the pontificate, since the electoral campaign was underway. Two weeks had passed since the death of President Hugo Chavez, and Maduro wrote in his “Twitter” account that “I assigned Diosdado Cabello to head the delegation to His Holiness Francis. Like Francis of Assisi, we need a Pope of the poor.

The news of the Pope’s audience with President Maduro sparked interest at the global level, given the difficulties that existed between the Church and the State during the 14 years of Hugo Chavez’s presidency. Moreover, Pope Francis expressed his intense “concern” on April 21, given the incidents that left eight dead and dozens of wounded in the wake of the elections, in which the new President won by a narrow margin.

Over the past two years, the current President has moderated his language. Suffice it to think that in July of 2010, referring to the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference (CEV) he said: “There is an internal dictatorship there in which no Christian of the Venezuelan population has a voice or vote.” On another occasion, he described the CEV and the Vatican as “cohabiting with the [Venezuelan] oligarchy. “It is really an Ecclesial Oligarchy, oligarchy of the fundamental authority of the formal structure of the Catholic Church,” he said.

However, in June of 2012, Maduro, who was then Foreign Minister of Venezuela, said that the Government expected the opening of a “good stage” in its relations with the CEV and the Vatican.

He referred to his meeting with Archbishop Parolin, saying: “We have ratified to them the desire of the President of the Republic (Hugo Chavez)to have relations of dialogue, of respect with the Episcopal Conference and that some expressions cease of bad political use and aggression against the Bolivarian and revolutionary democratic process that Venezuela is living,” reported a local source.

A few days ago it was learned that Deputies of the Opposition will go to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis. Among them will be Edgar Zambrano, leader of the parliamentary faction of Democratic Action. The meeting will take place at the end of the general audience on Wednesday, June 19. It will have been preceded by a meeting with the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, with whom they will address “the subject of Venezuelan prisoners and exiles,” indicated the local media.