PANAMA CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis is sending a top emissary to a gathering between U.S. President Barack Obama and leaders of Latin America.
Panama on Thursday confirmed that Cardinal Pietro Parolin will attend next month's Summit of the Americas.
But Foreign Minister Isabel De Saint Malo dismissed speculation that the Vatican secretary of state would attempt to smooth over tensions between Venezuela and the U.S. that threaten to dominate the meeting.
She said the invitation reflects the region's enthusiasm for the first-ever Latin American pope.
Parolin served as the Holy See's ambassador to Venezuela until 2013 and last year helped broker negotiations between President Nicolas Maduro's government and the opposition.
The Vatican also played a role in secret talks between the U.S. and Cuba to re-establish diplomatic ties.