President Javier Milei of Argentina, who earlier than taking workplace ridiculed Pope Francis as an “imbecile” and accused him of breaking the Ten Commandments, met with the pontiff on Monday for an hour-long dialog that the Vatican described as “cordial ‘.
The Vatican mentioned in a press release that the 2 leaders had spoken in a closed assembly about their shared will to additional strengthen relations and mentioned the Milei authorities’s program to sort out the financial disaster in Argentina, the place the annual inflation price is 211 p.c.
On social media, Mr. Milei’s workplace posted a photo of the Pope with the President and the President’s sister, Karina Milei, one in every of his closest advisers.
The discussions, which happened a day after Mr. Milei attended a Mass for the canonization of Argentina’s first feminine saint, additionally touched on worldwide points, “particularly ongoing conflicts and the dedication to peace amongst nations,” the Vatican mentioned.
Goodwill was not self-evident. Each males have been born in Buenos Aires, and whereas the Pope is a nationwide hero to many in Argentina, the place a majority of individuals establish as Roman Catholic, Mr. Milei, who says he’s an “anarcho-capitalist,” and people beneath the banner of a far-right libertarian occasion, has repeatedly denigrated Francis.
Within the years main as much as his election in November, Mr. Milei typically attacked the pope, who has repeatedly spoken out in his writings and speeches towards free-market economies as a result of they generate earnings inequality that impacts essentially the most susceptible.
In 2020, Mr. Milei known as Francis “the consultant of the Evil One on earth” for the Pope’s protection of “social justice.” Two years later, Mr. Milei mentioned that Francis “is at all times on the aspect of evil” as a result of the Pope supported taxes.
Francis appeared unperturbed and dismissed the criticism as electoral exaggeration. Mr. Milei’s feedback have been made “in jest,” the pope mentioned in an interview with a Mexican broadcaster in December.
“You must make numerous distinction between what a politician says in the course of the election marketing campaign and what he truly does afterwards,” Francis added, “as a result of then comes the second of concreteness, of choices.”
Francis has typically downplayed criticism, even essentially the most vitriolic — as a part of a method to maintain political doorways open even amongst leaders who maintain views he rejects.
It hasn’t at all times labored in his favor. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the Pope was initially criticized for his place on Moscow; he lastly known as out the aggressor solely after months had handed.
Mr. Milei’s tone towards the pope softened after he was elected president late final 12 months, when Francis known as him after his victory. Mr. Milei’s workplace mentioned in a press release on the time that the pope had contacted Mr. Milei to “congratulate him and categorical his needs for the unity and progress of our nation.”
On Sunday, Mr. Milei attended a Mass celebrating the canonization of María Antonia de Paz y Figueroa, often called Mama Antula, an 18th-century lady who gave up her wealth to look after the poor. She additionally stored alive the work of the Jesuits, the order to which Francis belongs, after it was expelled from Argentina.
Francis praised her Sunday as a “mannequin of apostolic enthusiasm and daring for us,” and urged his listeners to beat prejudice and concern and be near the poor. “What number of struggling women and men can we meet on the doorsteps of our cities,” he mentioned
After the ceremony, Francis was taken in a wheelchair to greet the Argentine president. The 2 males exchanged a couple of phrases earlier than Mr. Milei leaned over and gave Francis a hug.
There was widespread hypothesis amongst Vatican consultants that the 2 leaders would talk about a potential papal journey to Argentina throughout their assembly, however the Vatican didn’t affirm any dialogue on that topic. Francis has made 44 journeys exterior Italy since changing into pope virtually 11 years in the past, however has by no means returned dwelling. In January, Mr. Milei issued a proper invitation.
In an interview Friday with Vatican Information, an official Vatican outlet, Archbishop Jorge Ignacio García Cuerva of Buenos Aires mentioned the Argentine folks have been ready for Pope Francis “and need to meet their pastor.”
The Archbishop additionally spoke in regards to the present financial state of affairs in Argentina. Within the two months since Mr Milei took workplace, inflation has soared and the worth of the nationwide foreign money has plummeted, sparking protests and strikes. Regardless of the financial chaos, Mr. Milei’s ranking has remained excessive.
“On the one hand, we can’t stay detached, as a result of for us the poverty indexes and the poverty indexes inform us about concrete faces, about concrete brothers and sisters who’re very badly off,” the archbishop mentioned.
“They aren’t numbers however concrete faces, and as I at all times say, the political, enterprise and spiritual leaders, all of us have a small duty to succeed in this case,” he added.
Mr Milei arrived in Italy from Israel, the place he had promised to maneuver his nation’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The choice was praised by the Israeli authorities and criticized by Hamas, the armed Palestinian group with which Israel is at struggle within the Gaza Strip.
Mr Milei was as a result of meet Italy’s far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Monday afternoon.