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Amid nation's crisis, Venezuelan bishops meet pope


  • Protesters clash with police June 5 in Caracas, Venezuela. With Venezuela's political and economic crisis turning violent and after the country's president tried to claim he had the support of Pope Francis, the leadership of the country's bishops' conference traveled to the Vatican. (CNS photo/Cristian Hernandez, EPA)
  • Pope Francis poses with cardinals and bishops from the Venezuelan bishops' conference during a private meeting June 8 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
  • Pope Francis met with cardinals and bishops from the Venezuelan bishops' conference June 8 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With Venezuela's political and economic crisis turning violent and after the country's president tried to claim he had the support of Pope Francis, the leadership of the country's bishops' conference traveled to the Vatican.

The bishops requested the meeting, which was held June 8 as protests continued in their homeland and protesters continued to die. Since April, close to 70 people -- both government supporters and supporters of the opposition -- have been killed in the protests.

The Vatican listed the meeting in its daily bulletin but provided no information.

On the eve of their meeting with the pope, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas told Vatican Radio that "the repression" exercised by the government of President Nicolas Maduro "has been increasingly cruel."

In addition to official security forces, he said, there are pro-government, armed civilian groups, "which is absolutely criminal, so that the situation is extremely serious and that is why we are here."

Pope Francis, he said, not only has urged prayers for the country publicly, but also has urged dialogue and a negotiated settlement to the political crisis and has encouraged Maduro's government to allow in food and medicine to help Venezuelans suffering from runaway inflation.

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