Pope Francis prays for Venezuela as referendum sparks more violence

Pope Francis prays for Venezuela as referendum sparks more violence

The Pope is renewing his prayers for the embattled people of Venezuela, after a reported seven million people voted in an unofficial referendum against government changes to their constitution.

The referendum was organised to put pressure on President Nicolas Maduro, in order to further weaken his legitimacy as a leader.

“I express a special greeting to the Venezuelan Catholic community in Italy, renewing my prayer for your beloved country,” said the Pontiff during Sunday’s Angelus in St Peter’s Square, while groups of Venezuelans waved flags and flew balloons in their country’s colours.


Venezuelan bishops supported the initiative, which was not recognised by authorities. President Maduro dismissed Sunday’s poll as unconstitutional and is campaigning for a vote on July 30 to create a legislative super body that can re-write the constitution and dissolve state institutions.

Voters were asked three questions in the referendum, with 98% of them choosing to reject the proposed new assembly. They are also calling on the military to defend the existing constitution and for early elections to be held this year rather than 2018.

Venezuelan nationals living in Ireland cast their ballots in Tallaght, Dublin.

This comes as men on motorbikes open-fired at people voting last Sunday in Caracas, killing one woman and wounding three others.

“Today, July 16, dignity won and tyranny lost,” said opposition leader Maria Corina Machado according to Reuters, “we have given an indisputable mandate for a new Venezuela starting tomorrow.”

Since April almost 100 people have been killed in violent protests, and government agencies were criticised for their use of force by Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, who described President Maduro’s actions as “a government war against the people”.