Il Corriere della Sera quoted on Wednesday from a letter it said the Argentine pontiff wrote to Maduro on February 7, several days after the socialist leader said he had asked the pope to help launch talks with the opposition. Francis declines the request.
Some outlets later carrying the report characterised the pontiff's language as "harsh," with Francis reminding the Venezuelan leader that previous attempts at mediation had not led to a breakthrough. Other reports described how Francis reminded Maduro that he has broken previous commitments made in meetings, saying they had not been followed by "concrete gestures."
The Argentine pontiff added, however, that he has always supported dialogue and "above everything, the common good."
It was reportedly addressed to "His Excellency Mr. Nicolás Maduro," rather than using the word "president."
According to the article in Il Corriere della Sera, signed by Massimo Franco, a columnist seen as close to the pontiff, in the letter the pope does not pronounce his opinion on a potential recognition of Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela, a subject on which Francis maintains a "prudent" position.
The Vatican didn't immediately reply to requests seeking comments on the letter, only describing any such correspondence as "private."
On Monday, a delegation representing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó met at the Vatican with Holy See officials.
Francis has previously lamented that Venezuelan bishops were frustrated in their efforts to help defuse political and social tensions in the country, where much of the population sorely needs food and medicine.