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Pope Francis condemns assassination of Ecuadorian presidential candidate

Pope Francis at his general audience in St. Peter’s Square on May 17, 2023. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Aug 12, 2023 / 09:30 am (CNA).

After Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio was gunned down at a campaign rally this week, Pope Francis appealed for a unified effort for peace in the country plagued by drug-related violence.

The pope sent a condolence telegram to Archbishop Alfredo Espinoza Mateus of Quito on Aug. 12 in which he condemned the assassination “with all his strength” and expressed his deepest sympathy to the family of the deceased and “all of the beloved Ecuadorian people.”

Villavicencio, 59, was assassinated on Wednesday night at a campaign event only ten days before the first round of voting in Ecuador’s presidential election. The politician had been an outspoken critic of the violence caused by drug trafficking.

Immediately following the assassination, the Ecuadorian bishops’ conference condemned the act of violence, while pledging to support initiatives to restore public safety and to “pray and work for peace based on freedom, justice, and truth.”

The telegram sent on the pope’s behalf by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin called on “all citizens and political forces to unite in a common effort for peace in the face of the suffering caused by unjustifiable violence.”

“With these sentiments, Pope Francis, while commending the eternal rest of Mr. Villavicenzo to the maternal intercession of Our Lady of El Quinche, affectionately imparts his apostolic blessing as a sign of faith and hope in the risen Christ,” it said.

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