María Fernanda Silva, originally from a Cape Verde island off the western coast Africa, will be Argentina's new ambassador to the Vatican. The decision was confirmed before President Alberto Fernández left for Rome on Wednesday, where he will meet with the Supreme Pontiff this Friday at 11am.
Catholic and the first Afro-descendant woman of the Argentine foreign service, according to local reports, Silva will be the first woman to occupy the role.
Originally, the administration had nominated Luis Bellando for the position, though that was later withdrawn amid reports over the career diplomat's status as a divorcee and debate over whether the government preferred a more ideologically suited candidate. Bellando's main advocate within the government had reportedly been Strategic Affairs Secretary Gustavo Beliz.
Sources at the Foreign Ministry confirmed Silva's appointment to Perfil. The daughter of an Argentine father and a mother born in Cape Verde, was initially slated to be secretary of the Women's Ministry in the Fernández government.
However, Silva learned last night that her future would be at the Vatican. Her career in foreign service began in 2003, when she worked close to former foreign minister Rafael Bielsa. She later became the second-in-command at the Argentine Embassy in the Vatican during Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s last term, when Eduardo Valdés held the post of ambassador.
Silva's civil situation is similar to that of Bellando, but not identical. The newly appointed diplomat received canonical nullity of her marriage because her husband decided to later opt for the priesthood. When he was bishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio himself helped lead the process that culminated in the declaration of marriage annulment for the couple, who acted with one another’s cooperation. According to both canon and ecclesiastical law, Silva is single.
Commenting on the news, the coordinator of the Observatory of Gender and Public Policies, Victoria Freire, shared a video in which the future ambassador explained the importance of including Afro-descendants in the political discourse.
"For the first time, an Afro-descendant woman will be an ambassador for our country. María Fernanda Silva was appointed as ambassador to the Vatican. Listen to her words about the inclusion of the Afro community. We are building an Argentina of all," Freire said on Twitter.