Once hostile, Argentine president brings Pope Francis his favorite sweets

Pope Francis and Argentine President Javier Milei share a laugh during a private audience at the Vatican Feb. 12, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Months after throwing verbal jabs at Pope Francis along the campaign train, Argentine President Javier Milei brought smiles and cookies to the Vatican for his highly anticipated meeting with the pope Feb. 12.

The 60 minutes they spent speaking privately was significantly longer than usual for a meeting between the pope and a head of state, especially considering that no translator was needed between the Buenos Aires natives. Pope Francis' meeting with the president of Tanzania earlier in the morning, by comparison, lasted only 25 minutes.

Although the Vatican did not share the content of their conversation, edited video footage shows the pope and the president having a friendly conversation and sharing a laugh. Among the gifts Milei brought for the pope were traditional Argentine sweets, dulce de leche alfajores, and the pope's favorite brand of lemon cookies, the president's spokesperson said in a post on X. He also gave the pope a commemorative postcard of St. María Antonia de Paz Figueroa -- canonized by Pope Francis the previous day -- distributed by the Argentine post office for her beatification in 2017.

After his meeting with the pope, the Argentine president met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Vatican foreign minister, with whom he discussed the new government's plans to address the economic crisis in Argentina and ongoing global conflicts, the Vatican said.

The long pedestrian street leading to the Vatican was closed off for the president's motorcade the morning of their meeting. A group of people waiting for the president to pass was gathered outside the Argentine embassy to the Vatican, and Milei stopped the car to take pictures with them on his way to the Vatican. He arrived in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace about 10 minutes later than scheduled.

Milei is a Catholic, but he has publicly expressed his interest in converting to Judaism later in life.

In the leadup to Argentina's presidential election in October 2023, Milei had publicly called Pope Francis an "imbecile," a supporter of "communist killers" and other derogatory terms involving expletives. Asked about the comments in a December interview, the pope said "it is important to distinguish between what a politician says on the campaign trail and what he or she will actually do afterward."

Pope Francis "is not bothered" by hearing hostile remarks about him, Argentine Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, told reporters Feb. 12. "He took it as a campaign strategy, or that it could be some kind of marketing strategy."

Pope Francis had even called Milei shortly after he won Argentina's presidential election, and over the phone the newly elected president invited the pope to visit Argentina.

Nonetheless, the president's tone was markedly different when he gave the pope a big hug after papal Mass Feb. 11.

The Argentine president was in Rome for the canonization of Argentina's first female saint, St. María Antonia de Paz Figueroa, known as Mama Antula, celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Basilica. In a Vatican video of their meeting in the basilica, the pope can be heard asking the notoriously disheveled Milei in jest, "Did you cut your hair?" and after a laugh the Argentine president asked the pope if he could hug him. "Yes, son, yes," the pope replied, and the two shared a warm embrace. Pope Francis and Milei also met before the Mass, the Vatican said.

During a Feb. 10 interview on Italian radio, Milei called the first pope from the Western hemisphere "the most important Argentine in history."

Milei arrived in Italy Feb. 10 after a three-day trip to Israel, where he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He also met with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and President Sergio Mattarella in Rome after his visit to the Vatican.



Share:
Print


AOD Massfinder-Article Bottom
Menu
Home
Subscribe
Search