Pope Francis is urging Venezuela's government and its opponents to put aside their political differences and demonstrate the necessary courage to reach an agreement that ends weeks of violent protests.
Francis' written message was read by the Holy See's representative in Venezuela, Aldo Giordano, at the start of a much-anticipated meeting Thursday night between President Nicolas Maduro and key members of the opposition.
The Vatican is sponsoring the first talks aimed at reconciliation since protests began in early February. The negotiations are marked by widespread mistrust on both sides.
Maduro's opponents blame his socialist government for destroying the oil-rich economy and stamping out dissent. Meanwhile Maduro claims he's the target of U.S.-backed coup attempt.