"The Holy See asks all the political actors, and particularly the Government, to guarantee the full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the current Constitution", the statement said, calling also for "the avoidance or suspension of ongoing initiatives such as the new constitutional assembly that, more than favoring reconciliation and peace, promote a climate of tension and confrontation and mortgage the future".
Maduro faces accusations at home and overseas of trampling on democracy with the election last weekend of the assembly in a vote boycotted by the opposition and allegedly marred by fraud. "If that is so, then I feel proud of the proposed sanction", said Maduro.
But the new assembly's leader, former Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez, warned the opposition that their reckoning is coming, blaming it for deaths that accompanied the protests and for waging "economic war" against the people.
Venezuela's bolivar currency tumbled 18 percent against the US dollar on Thursday on the black market, ahead of the inauguration of a legislative superbody that the opposition says will give President Nicola Maduro sweeping new powers.
The opposition boycotted Sunday's election of the constituent assembly, arguing that the rules were rigged to benefit the government, and almost all the candidates were supporters of Maduro's administration.
On the eve of the assembly's installation, the Spanish Embassy in Caracas was attacked with gasoline bombs. Spain's ambassador to Venezuela was among a group of legislators who visited the National Assembly on Tuesday in a show of support after the constituent assembly ellection. One of its first tasks, which may come as early as Saturday, could be the closure of the opposition-controlled congress and the removal of chief prosecutor, Luisa Ortega Diaz, a longtime supporter of Chavez who recently broke with Maduro.
In a sign of its apparent demoralized state only a few hundred demonstrators showed up for Friday's protest against the constitutional assembly, one of the smallest turnouts in months.
Ortega Diaz filed a complaint Thursday seeking a court order to block installation of the new assembly.
The head of British firm Smartmatic, Antonio Mugica, said in London Wednesday there is no question in his mind that the total reported vote was false.
One opposition lawmaker, Henry Ramos Allup, said this week that if forcibly expelled from the legislative palace the National Assembly could potentially hold its sessions at another site.
The opposition contends the vote was rigged to pack the assembly with supporters of Maduro.
"They are bent on plowing ahead with this power grab", Shifter said, "and this is not going to stand in the way".