Pope Francis appealed Wednesday for reconciliation in Venezuela to end three weeks of deadly anti-government protests in the oil-rich but deeply divided country.
"I sincerely hope that violence and hostility will cease as soon as possible, and that the whole Venezuelan people, beginning with political leaders and institutions, will endeavour to promote reconciliation," he said during his weekly audience at the Vatican.
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The Argentinian pope called for "mutual forgiveness and a sincere dialogue, respectful of truth and justice" to restore calm to the largely Catholic country.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sought Wednesday to hold a "peace conference" to end a movement that has left at least 14 dead, but the main opposition leader has refused to attend.
Maduro says the protests are a US-inspired assault on his democratic rule, less than a year since he was elected to succeed the late leftist icon Hugo Chavez, whose policies he has continued.
© AFP 2014