CARACAS, Monday June 17, 2013 | Update

Pope Francis holds 20-minute audience with Nicolás Maduro

In arriving at the hall known as Sala del Tronetto, the Venezuelan president said it was "an honor" to meet the pope, adding that he was "very impressed" and "happy" to be there

This is the first meeting between Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and Pope Francis (Andreas Solaro / Reuters)
Monday June 17, 2013  09:45 AM
Pope Francis on Monday received in a 20-minute audience President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro in the hall of the Vatican Apostolic Library.

In arriving at the hall known as Sala del Tronetto, the Venezuelan president said it was "an honor" to meet the pope, adding that he was "very impressed" and "happy" to be there, Efe reported.

He also thanked the Argentine pope "for everything you are doing."

As reported by the press office of the Holy See, during the meeting at the Vatican they addressed a few issues facing the country such as "poverty, the fight against crime and drug trafficking."

The Vatican explained that during the 20-minute meeting, held in a "climate of cordiality," Pope Francis and Maduro also reviewed "the social and political situation of Venezuela" after the recent death of Hugo Chávez.

The Venezuelan president was accompanied by Cilia Flores, and a large delegation composed, among others, by Foreign Minister Elías Jaua, Planning Minister Jorge Giordani, and Petroleum Minister Rafael Ramírez Carreńo.

During the traditional exchange of gifts, Maduro gave the pope the Venezuelan Constitution, a portrait of Simón Bolívar, a painting of the Virgin of Coromoto, the patroness of Venezuela, and a sculpture of Dr. José Gregorio Hernández (1864-1919), who is in the process of canonization.

As regards Dr. José Gregorio Hernández, known for his commitment to the poor, Maduro expressed his wish to the pope that he will be canonized soon as "the people's saint."

Pope Francis gave Maduro a fountain pen and, as he did with other Latin American leaders, the paper on the conclusions of the meeting of the Latin American Episcopal Conference held in Aparecida (Brazil).

All the members of the Venezuelan delegation that greeted Bergoglio asked the pontiff to bless objects and images they brought with them.

Maduro also asked the Argentine Pope to bless him and the Francis made the sign of the cross on Maduro's forehead.

This is Maduro's first official trip to Europe as Venezuelan president since he took office last April 19.
Whose victim am I?

They are marching in step to the same tune. There is a coordinated effort to position the idea. The Twitter hashtag  #YoSoyVictimaDeLaGuarimba (I'm a victim of "guarimbas", or protest barricades) can be read on all pro-government Twitter accounts, including those of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the National Assembly's Press Office, the state-run food distribution network PDVAL, state airline Conviasa, the Venezuelan embassies in foreign countries, radio stations and the huge media network responsive to the Government's interests and messages.

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