Pope extends greetings to Maduro, wishes for 'justice and concord' in Venezuela
Just before he headed on his fifth papal visit to his native Latin America region, Pope Francis has urged Venezuela to unite in "concord" to end its deadly political crisis.
The Argentine pontiff was heading to Colombia on Wednesday to plead for lasting peace in that country as it moves towards the end of a half-century war.
But his first statements on the trip concerned Venezuela, where a political and economic crisis has caused food shortages, deadly unrest and calls for President Nicolas Maduro to quit. As his plane entered Venezuelan airspace, the Argentine pontiff issued a telegram -- a traditional gesture he makes for every country he flies over on his apostolic trips.
He sent "cordial greetings" to Maduro and the Venezuelan people, "praying that all in the nation may promote paths of solidarity, justice and concord."
The Vatican has tried to mediate in the Venezuelan crisis -- just as Francis has supported recent steps towards peace in neighbouring Colombia. Earlier on the flight, Francis told journalists the trip was "a bit special" because it aims to help Colombia "move forward on the road to peace."
Trump administration had earlier announced sanctions against President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, in retaliation of the latter's threat against his opposition leaders and the elections which has been denounced by the international community as illegitimate. Notably, Maduro is only the fourth ever sitting head of state who have been subject to American sanctions.