June 3, 2018 / 11:39 AM / 2 months ago

Pope calls for end to violence in Nicaragua after deadly protests

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis has called for an end to violence in Nicaragua, where at least 15 people were killed this week in protests against President Daniel Ortega and his proposed changes in social security.

FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a national flag in support of teenagers who have died in recent protests against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's government in Managua, Nicaragua June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas

Speaking to tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday address, Francis expressed his “sorrow for the serious violence, with dead and wounded, carried out by armed forces to repress social protests. I pray for the victims and their families.”

FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis attends a meeting with faithful of the diocese of Rome at Saint John Lateran Basilica in Rome, Italy May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Tony Gentile/File Photo

Francis, the first Latin American pope in history, said the Church was always for dialogue “but this requires an active commitment to respect freedom and above all life. I pray that all the violence ceases and conditions are put in place to resume talks as soon as possible”.

At least 15 people were killed and more than 200 injured on Wednesday in one of the worst days of violence since protests against Ortega began more than a month ago, police said on Thursday.

The bloodshed was condemned by the Central American country’s Episcopal conference of Catholic bishops, which called it “organized and systematic aggression”.

Local human rights organization CENIDH say at least 100 people have been killed since the protests began.

Reporting by Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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