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Pope Francis Meets Argentine President Javier Milei in Vatican

pope-francis-meets-argentine-president-javier-milei-in-vatican
Pope Francis Meets Argentine President Javier Milei in Vatican

ROME — Pope Francis received Argentina’s populist president Javier Milei for an hourlong meeting Monday in the Vatican.

“During the cordial discussions, which took place at the Secretariat of State, appreciation was expressed for the good relations between the Holy See and the Argentine Republic, and the will to strengthen them further,” the Vatican press office said in a statement.

According to the Vatican, discussions also turned to the new government’s program to address Argentina’s economic crisis as well as international topics such as “ongoing conflicts and the commitment to peace among nations.”

Yesterday Milei and the pope met informally for the first time following the canonization of the first Argentinean saint, Mama Antula, in Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Argentinian President Javier Milei is arriving at the San Damaso courtyard in The Vatican to meet with Pope Francis on February 12, 2024. (Massimo Valicchia/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

By all accounts the meeting was relaxed and friendly, in contrast with sharp words of mutual criticism that emerged in past months.

“Did you cut your hair?” the pope jokingly asked the man known as the Lion King because of his unruly hair.

Milei asked the pope if he could embrace him, to which the pontiff said “yes,” adding that “it’s a pleasure to see you.”

Francis remarked on Milei’s impeccable suit and tie, noting the contrast with his usual Fonzie-esque leather jacket.

The pope also praised Argentinean Foreign Minister Diana Mondino for her “excellent work” during her first two months in the post, noting her exemplary firmness “given the roughness of the other side.”

Pope Francis exchanges gifts with Argentina’s President Javier Milei and his sister Karina Elizabeth Milei during an audience at the Apostolic Palace on February 12, 2024 in Vatican City, Vatican. President Javier Milei has been in Rome since Saturday for the canonisation of Argentina’s first female saint María Antonia de San José de Paz y Figueroa, known as “Mama Antula”, presided by Pope Francis on yesterday in St. Peter’s Basilica. (Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

Back in 2020, Milei had referred to the pope as an “imbecile who defends social justice” as well as a “communism-preaching son of a bitch” and “the representative of the evil one on Earth.”

With time Milei moderated his tone considerably and as soon as he took office wrote a grateful letter to the pontiff, inviting him to visit their country and asking him to meet him in the Vatican.

For his part, Francis telephoned Milei shortly after his victory in an effort to smooth over the relationship between the two.

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