CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro met Monday with Pope Francis as the Vatican took a more active role trying to defuse a tense political standoff in the South American nation.
Maduro spoke with the Pope in a private meeting on his way back to Venezuela following a tour of oil-producing nations of the Middle East.
As news of the surprise papal meeting surfaced, back in Venezuela Monsignor Emil Paul Tscherrig, who Francis dispatched in a bid to jumpstart dialogue between the government and the opposition, announced that representatives of the two sides would meet Oct. 30 on the Venezuelan island of Margarita under the auspices of the Vatican and the Union of South American Nations.
"It's important to have light, a lamp to guide us through this tunnel of a fight that we've entered," opposition alliance chief Jesus Torrealba said prior to his meeting with the Tscherrig, the Vatican's representative to Francis' native Argentina. "We're embarking on a process of struggle that will be