Pope Francis calls for dialogue in Nicaragua

"I am united with my brother bishops in Nicaragua and their grief over violence committed by armed groups," the pope said

Pope Francis on Sunday called for dialogue in Nicaragua, where weeks of deadly anti-government demonstrations have left more than 100 people dead.

"I am united with my brother bishops in Nicaragua and their grief over violence committed by armed groups," the pope said after leading the traditional Angelus prayer in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican.

The opposition in Nicaragua on Saturday renewed calls for President Daniel Ortega's resignation as protesters again clashed with police in the city of Masaya.

"The Church is always in favour of dialogue, but for that it requires an active commitment to respect for freedom and, above all, life," the Argentine pope said.

"I pray that all the violence will cease so that the conditions for dialogue can be restored as quickly as possible."

Ortega, 72, has dominated Nicaraguan politics since leading the Sandinista revolution that ousted dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979.

He took over the country as head of a ruling junta and then president until 1990, then returned to power in 2007 -- and looks determined to stay there, despite the protests and the devastating loss of his once-solid support from the business elite.

The protests began over a much-hated pension reform and ballooned into a mass threat to Ortega's rule.

The embattled president denies repressing them.

"I am united with my brother bishops in Nicaragua and their grief over violence committed by armed groups," the pope said