Catholic News Service photo
Opposition supporters in Venezuela hold a placard calling for peace as they take part in a rally against President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas April 10. Pope Francis called Venezuelan politicians to "heroism of forgiveness and mercy" at the st art of mediated talks intended to stem two months of political unrest.
Catholic News Service photo
Opposition supporters in Venezuela hold a placard calling for peace as they take part in a rally against President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas April 10. Pope Francis called Venezuelan politicians to "heroism of forgiveness and mercy" at the st art of mediated talks intended to stem two months of political unrest.
VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis called on opposing political forces in Venezuela to demonstrate the "heroism of forgiveness and mercy," and assume they all have the good of the country at heart.

Only with pardon and mercy can people overcome "resentment and hatred and open themselves to a path that really is new," he said in an April 10 message to participants in a first session of talks between the government and opposition leaders.

The Vatican, Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia were asked to send mediators to the talks in hopes of ending two months of violent demonstrations, prompted by shortages of basic foods, rising inflation, high crime and political divisions. Opponents of President Nicolas Maduro, including thousands of students, have taken to the streets to demand changes; at least 41 people have died in the clashes.

In his message, read by Archbishop Aldo Giordano, the nuncio to Venezuela, Pope Francis said he is aware of many Venezuelans' "restlessness and suffering," and offered prayers for victims and their families.

"I am deeply convinced that violence can never bring a country peace and well-being because it always and only generates more violence," he said.

"Through dialogue you can rediscover the common and shared basis that will lead to overcoming the current moment of conflict and polarization, which is wounding Venezuela so deeply," the pope said.All the country's politicians love their country and their people and all of them are worried about the economic crisis and the rising crime rate, he said. "All of you have at heart your children's futures."

Overcoming the resentment that has grown in the past months will require following "a long and difficult path, which requires patience and courage, but it is the only path leading to peace and justice," the pope said. "For the good of all people and for your children's future, I ask you to have this kind of courage."