President Nicolas Maduro

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he has written to the pope asking him to help mediate his country’s crisis after a swathe of nations recognised a rival opposition chief as interim leader.

“I sent a letter to Pope Francis,” Maduro told Italy’s SkyTG24 television in an interview broadcast on Monday, with opposition leader Juan Guaido gaining more international support.

“I told him that I serve Christ’s cause… and in this spirit I asked for his help, in a process of facilitating and strengthening dialogue,” said Maduro, who has rejected calls for snap presidential elections.

“I ask the pope to put in his best effort, his will, to help on the path of dialogue. I hope to receive a positive response,” he said.

Maduro is supporting plans for a meeting of Latin American and European Union states in “Contact Group” talks in Montevideo on Thursday.

The pope is currently on a visit to the United Arab Emirates and is due to return to Rome on Tuesday.

Under Maduro’s stewardship, oil-dependent Venezuela has plunged into an economic crisis, suffering from hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine.

After several years of opposition efforts to oust Maduro, Guaido declared himself acting president at a rally on January 23.

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