Following Pope Francis' calls on Venezuelans to work toward political reconciliation, President Nicolas Maduro announced Monday he is scheduled to meet the Pontiff at the Vatican next week.

It would be Maduro's first meeting with the new pope.

Since taking office, Maduro has continued the frequent professions of Christian faith that were a hallmark of his mentor, the late President Hugo Chavez.

Over the weekend, Venezuela's Electoral Council completed an audit of results from April's bitterly contested presidential election, confirming Maduro's victory by a 1.5 percentage-point margin.

No government official appeared publicly to comment on the outcome, but an official at the council confirmed on Sunday a report by the state-run AVN news agency that the audit supported the official vote count. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to divulge the information.

The opposition has complained that the council ignored its demand for a full recount. That would have included not just comparing votes electronically registered by machines with the paper ballot receipts they emitted, but also comparing those with the poll station registries that contain voter signatures and with digitally recorded fingerprints.

Backers of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles claim rampant irregularities included the intimidation of voters and manipulating the outcome through votes cast in the names of dead people still on voting rolls.

Capriles also argues that the government's overwhelming use of state resources, including its dominance of broadcast media and pressuring 2.5 million public employees to back the ruling party, gave Maduro the edge.

Among nations, only the United States has insisted on a full recount. But those calls fell silent after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Venezuela's foreign minister, Elias Jaua, last week and the two agreed on accelerating efforts to restore relations at the ambassador level, lacking since 2010.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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