One hour: record broken! The duration of the audience granted Monday, February 12 by Pope Francis to his compatriot Javier Milei – an indicator of the atmosphere of the meeting – far exceeded those he had granted to the two previous presidents of the Argentine Republic (44 minutes for Alberto Fernandez, Javier Milei’s predecessor, only 22 minutes for Mauricio Macri).
However, the president elected last November on an ultraliberal program had violently targeted Pope Francis during his campaign, calling him an “imbecile who promotes communism”, or a “representative of the Evil One on Earth”. Francis, however, congratulated Milei when the polls returned their verdict and the new president apologized for making the remarks. On Saturday, in an interview with Argentine radio Miter, he was emphatic by presenting Jorge Bergoglio as “the most important Argentine in history”. The next day, the two men exchanged a warm embrace the day before the audience, on the sidelines of the canonization mass of Maria Antonia de Paz y Figuerora (1730-1799), the first Argentine saint, better known in her country under the name from “Mama Antula”.
Far from the microphones and cameras, what did the two leaders talk about? The press release from the Vatican press room only mentions the meeting which followed after the papal audience, between the Argentine president and the Vatican secretariat of state. “Both parties welcomed the good relations between the Holy See and the Argentine Republic and expressed their desire to further strengthen them.” The interlocutors also spoke of ongoing global conflicts and “the new government’s program to deal with the economic crisis.” A very sensitive point as the social doctrine of the Church is at odds with Milei’s program, focused on massive deregulation of the economy.
One way or another, Francis will have gotten his message across. Friday, on the eve of the president’s visit, he castigated in front of Argentine pilgrims the “radical individualism” which, according to him, infests society.
Finally, Javier Milei and the Pope will undoubtedly have discussed the subject of a trip by the Bishop of Rome to Argentina. A few days after his election, the Argentine president invited the Pope, during a telephone exchange, to visit his country of origin. A trip that has been talked about for several months at the Vatican. Francis had already expressed his desire to return to his country where he has not returned since his election to the Roman see. Easter or Trinity? François had an even vaguer formula: in the second half of 2024.