Pope Francis on Tuesday said he was open to playing a mediating role in Venezuela only if both sides in the country’s political crisis ask him to.
Francis told reporters on the way back from a trip to the United Arab Emirates.
On Monday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he had written to the pope inviting him to facilitate dialogue between him and the opposition.
“I will open the letter. I will see what can be done, but the initial conditions are that both sides need to ask for it,” Francis said.
President of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido – whom the U.S., several EU nations and South American powers have recognise as acting president – has refused negotiations with Maduro, instead calling on him to go.
The Vatican is known to be closely following events in Venezuela.
Francis is the first pope to hail from Latin America, and his deputy, Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, was formerly a Vatican ambassador in Caracas.
Last week, the pope refused to take sides between Maduro and Guaido, saying he supported “the entire Venezuelan people,” and expressed concern about the risk of “bloodshed.”
Meanwhile, the sexual abuse of nuns at the hands of priests and bishops “is a problem” within the Catholic Church, Pope Francis admitted on Tuesday.
Francis was asked about it after Women Church World, an official Vatican magazine, last week denounced the Catholic Church’s inadequate response to the phenomenon.
“It’s true, it is a problem,” the pope told reporters on the way back from a trip to the UAE, linking it to mistreatment of women in the wider society.
“It’s not something that everybody does, but there have been priests and even bishops, who have done it,” Francis said, referring to the abuse of nuns.
“I think it is still taking place because it is not as though the moment you become aware of something, it goes away. Should something more be done? Yes. Do we have the will? Yes,” he added.
Francis mentioned that some female religious orders where abuse was rife have been dissolved, while punitive action was taken against abusers in the clergy.
The Catholic Church is in the throes of a major sex abuse crisis, following a string of recent scandals in Chile, the U.S., Germany, Australia and elsewhere.
Many scandals are related to child-molesting priests, but there have also been reports of nuns facing abuse and harassment by their male superiors.
Francis is preparing to host a Feb. 21 to Feb. 24 summit with head bishops of national Catholic Church organisations from around the world to discuss the child abuse crisis.