The president of the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference (CEN), Leopoldo Brenes, on Monday set May 16 as the date for the start of a national dialogue to put an end to the crisis in the Central American nation.

"After listening to the clamor of a large majority of society and aware of the seriousness of the situation the country is experiencing, and although the circumstances for ... the dialogue are not the most ideal, we announce the start of same for this Wednesday, May 16, at 10 am in the auditorium of the National Seminary of Our Lady of Fatima," Brenes said.

The cardinal said that the Catholic Church will act as mediator and witness for the dialogue process, adding that "the Church does not have solutions for all specific questions, but together with the diverse social forces, we go along with the proposals that best respond to the dignity of the human being and the common good."

Brenes expressed his hope that the dialogue would deal with the country's institutional framework.

"We hope that the dialogue will deal structurally with the issue of the country's institutional framework with the aim of smoothing the road toward democratization," he said.

The religious leader also called upon the interlocutors to have a good attitude with an eye toward reaching agreement and for all sectors of society and the government to support the dialogue and work to ensure an environment of tolerance and respect, especially when demonstrations are staged.

"We're trying to avoid anything that might lead to situations of violence and that might result in looting," he said.

Finally, the Church called upon the Catholic faithful to observe a national day of fasting and prayer this coming Friday.

The dialogue will include as its primary actors the government, representatives from the private sector, civil society and students, with the CEN as mediator.

Last Friday, the CEN conditioned the convening of a national dialogue on compliance by the Daniel Ortega administration with a series of "unavoidable premises."

Nicaragua has been mired in crisis for the last 27 days during which time at least 54 people, and possibly as many as 65, have been killed and more than 500 injured, more than 200 of them by gunfire.