The embattled Nicolas Maduro has urged Pope Francis to "help us prevent Trump from sending troops" to Venezuela. Meanwhile, Vatican representative Pietro Parolin discussed the Venezuelan crisis with Russian officials.
The socialist president lauded the pope's "spirit" and "ethic" on a Tuesday press conference, and urged the Argentinian-born pontiff to help "establish a respectful dialogue" between political rivals in Venezuela.
Under the presidency of Nicolas Maduro, the Latin American country has slipped into deadly violence and deep economic crisis. Maduro has blamed the unrest on an international conspiracy led by the US government. The narrative was bolstered by Donald Trump's recent statement that a "military option" for Venezuela was on the table.
Talking to reporters on Tuesday, President Maduro asked Pope Francis for help against "the military threat from the United States."
"May the pope help us prevent Trump from sending troops to invade Venezuela," Maduro told a news conference.
Visit from Putin, a 'man of peace'
Despite speaking highly of Francis, Maduro had no praise for the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference, which gathers top Catholic Church representatives in the traditionally Catholic country. The body has been highly critical of the president and spoke out against his decision to sideline the parliament and replace the general prosecutor.
"The Episcopal Conference is another thing, I will not speak about them," Maduro told reporters.
Maduro also said he was expecting a state visit from Putin, whom he described as the world's most popular leader and a "man of peace."
His comments come as Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, visits Russia to discuss world issues and intra-faith ties.
After meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday, Parolin said that he had urged Russia to ease tensions in Venezuela. Moscow and Caracas have good diplomatic relations and strong commercial links.
Parolin is due to meet President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.
dj/kl (AFP, EFE, Reuters)