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OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 08-02-2024 14:43

Bad omens as Javier Milei prepares to meet Pope Francis

The President will meet the Pope at the Vatican but the build-up to the meeting promises tension.

Tomorrow, Javier Milei and Jorge Bergoglio will meet face-to-face. Not only will it be their first time getting to know each other and interacting, it will also be the presidential début in the Vatican. But bad omens are floating in the air prior to the encounter. What are they?

The reader’s head might quickly turn to the cataract of insults hurled by Milei for years – he famously tagged Francis as a “Communist” who backs “bloodthirsty regimes,” among other barbs, such as being “the representative of Evil on Earth.” 

Yet that is not where the tension lies. Francis is aware of the global role he occupies and those who know him say that his November 21 call to Milei arose from that. Curiously enough, that conversation was brokered by former Buenos Aires City mayoral candidate, libertarian Ramiro Marra, who shares the same ophthalmologist as the papal San Lorenzo fan. But the conversation did not bury all the ghosts.

The first thing striking the attention inside the Vatican is that Milei travelled first to Israel and then to see the Supreme Pontiff. Protocol indicates that this is an error – the Pope should be the first visit on a presidential tour, not the second destination. But that is not the only thing sending alarm-bells ringing: an ambassador to the Vatican has yet to be named. Fernanda Silva, who occupied that post during the Alberto Fernández Presidency, has already packed her bags and will be back in Argentina in the next few days, leaving Argentina’s Embassy vacant.

Ditto for the Cults (Worship) secretary, the state intermediary between the government and the different religions – and also the Pope. Although yet to be officially nominated, the government assures that this post will go to Francisco Sánchez, a PRO ex-deputy responding to Security Minister Patricia Bullrich. According to the Foreign Ministry, his appointment has been halted by the resistance of portfolio chief Diana Mondino, as a result of past insulting statements against the Pope, Judaism and Islam. A curious decision to place in that post a man who offends all the religions across the board.

But there would also seem to have been a certain malpractice in the journey. The government has invited more than 20 businessmen – among whom Eduardo Elzstain, Cristiano Ratazzi, Daniel Funes de Rioja, Hugo Sigman and Alejandro Bulgheroni stand out – to the Vatican with Milei and his team. Although each one will be paying for the trip out of their own pocket, this mega-committee is irritating. No head of state has ever taken businessmen to a meeting of this kind. “Do they think that they can do business by seeing the Pope?” wondered a Vatican source.

One last detail: Francis has decided to receive Milei in the Apostolic Library, a place of secondary importance for receiving presidents, instead of at his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

After tomorrow’s meeting, we will know on which side the coin fell – the omens, despite Milei’s move to revoke Argentina’s abortion law, are mostly bad.
 

Juan Luis González

Juan Luis González

Periodista de política.

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