President Javier Milei of Argentina, who earlier than taking workplace ridiculed Pope Francis as an “imbecile” and accused him of violating the Ten Commandments, met with the pontiff on Monday for an hourlong dialog that the Vatican described as “cordial.”
The Vatican stated in an announcement that the 2 leaders had spoken at a personal assembly about their shared will to additional strengthen relations and had addressed the Milei authorities’s program to counter the financial disaster in Argentina, the place the annual inflation fee is at 211 %.
On social media, Mr. Milei’s workplace posted a photograph of the pope with the president and the president’s sister, Karina Milei, one in all his closest advisers.
The discussions, which got here a day after Mr. Milei attended a Mass for the canonization of Argentina’s first feminine saint, additionally addressed worldwide points, “particularly ongoing conflicts and the dedication to peace amongst nations,” the Vatican stated.
The great will was not a given. Each males have been born in Buenos Aires, and although the pope is a nationwide hero to many in Argentina, the place a majority of people identify as Roman Catholic, Mr. Milei, who says he’s an “anarcho-capitalist” and who ran below the banner of a far-right libertarian occasion, has repeatedly denigrated Francis.
Within the years previous his election in November, Mr. Milei typically attacked the pope, who in his writings and speeches has repeatedly spoken out in opposition to free market economies for producing revenue inequalities that have an effect on essentially the most weak.
In 2020, Mr. Milei referred to as Francis “the consultant of the Evil One on Earth” due to the pope’s protection of “social justice.” Two years later, Mr. Milei stated that Francis “at all times stands on the aspect of evil” as a result of the pope supported taxation.
Francis gave the impression to be unperturbed, disregarding the criticism as electoral hyperbole. Mr. Milei’s feedback have been made “in jest,” the pope stated in an interview in December with a Mexican broadcaster.
“It’s important to distinguish lots between what a politician says within the election marketing campaign and what he truly does afterward,” Francis added, “as a result of then comes the second of concreteness, of selections.”
Francis has typically downplayed criticism, even essentially the most vitriolic — a part of a method of holding political doorways open, even with leaders who maintain views that he rejects.
It has not at all times labored in his favor. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the pope was initially criticized for his stance on Moscow; he finally referred to as out the aggressor only after months had passed.
Mr. Milei’s tone towards the pope softened after he was elected president late last year, when Francis called him after his victory. Mr. Milei’s workplace stated in an announcement on the time that the pope had contacted Mr. Milei to “congratulate him and to specific his needs for the unity and progress for our nation.”
On Sunday, Mr. Milei attended a Mass for the canonization of María Antonia de Paz y Figueroa, often called Mama Antula, an 18th-century lady who gave up her wealth to take care of the poor. She additionally saved alive the work of the Jesuits, the order that Francis belongs to, after it was expelled from Argentina.
Francis praised her on Sunday as a “mannequin of apostolic fervor and audacity for us,” and he 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 sidewalk of our cities,” he stated
After the ceremony, Francis was taken in a wheelchair to greet the Argentine president. The 2 males exchanged a number of phrases earlier than Mr. Milei bent over and gave Francis a hug.
It had been broadly speculated by Vatican specialists that the 2 leaders would communicate of a potential papal journey to Argentina throughout their assembly, however the Vatican didn’t verify any talks on that matter. Francis has made 44 journeys outdoors Italy since changing into pope practically 11 years in the past, however he has by no means returned house. In January, Mr. Milei issued a formal invitation.
In an interview on Friday with Vatican News, an official Vatican outlet, Archbishop Jorge Ignacio García Cuerva of Buenos Aires stated that the Argentine individuals have been ready for Pope Francis “and wish to meet with their pastor.”
The archbishop additionally spoke concerning the present financial scenario in Argentina. Within the two months since Mr. Milei took workplace, inflation has soared and the worth of the nationwide foreign money has plummeted, prompting protests and strikes. Regardless of the financial chaos, Mr. Milei’s approval ranking has remained excessive.
“On the one hand, we can not stay detached as a result of for us, the poverty indexes and the indigence indexes are telling us about concrete faces, about concrete brothers and sisters who’re having a really unhealthy time,” the archbishop stated.
“They don’t seem to be numbers however concrete faces, and, as I at all times say, the political, enterprise and spiritual leaders, all of us have a little bit accountability in having reached this case,” he added.
Mr. Milei arrived in Italy from Israel, the place he had promised to move his nation’s embassy to Jerusalem, from Tel Aviv. The choice was praised by the Israeli authorities and criticized by Hamas, the armed Palestinian group with which Israel is at warfare within the Gaza Strip.
Mr. Milei was scheduled to fulfill with Italy’s hard-right prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, on Monday afternoon.