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Francisco, the Pope of Latin America who never returned to his land

Pope Francis and the President of Argentina, Alberto Fernandez, on January 31, 2020 in Vatican City.Getty Images

“See you around the corner,” Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio told Father Jorge Russo, Dean of the Metropolitan Cathedral. It was Tuesday, February 26, 2013, and Bergoglio was leaving Buenos Aires for Rome to take part in the conclave that will elect Benedict XVI’s successor in the Vatican. Then the Argentine bishop calculated that he would have enough time to take part in a homily on Holy Thursday, in April, but once he became Pope Francis, he did not return to his land. Postponement of an official visit is the meat of all kinds of political speculation in Argentina, now revitalized for the tenth anniversary of his pontificate.

The Argentines see Francisco as one of their own and tell him to drag him into the quagmire of domestic politics. For a decade, in Buenos Aires, every letter arriving from the Vatican was analyzed with a local key, the width of a smile measured with this or that politician or the grim gesture a Jesuit gave to a former president. Controversies began on the day of its announcement, March 13, 2013. The “Pope of Peronism” arrived in San Pedro. The world believed it and in Argentina it was proven as an axiom. I was never affiliated with the Peronist party, nor was I even a campaigner or supporter of Peronism. Asserting that this is a lie, ”Francisco finally said in the book shepherd (Ediciones B, 2023), the product of long conversations with journalists Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambroghetti. My writings on social justice have led me to say that I am a Peronist. And on the premise of a Peronist conception of politics, what’s wrong with that? Francisco asked, to close the discussion.

Sergio Rubin highlights “In the book he says ‘It’s a lie that I’m a Peronist’.” [el expresidente liberal Mauricio] Macri is the stuff of local politics, “adds. Historian Marcelo Larraki, author of Francis Code (2016, Sudamericana) explains that Bergoglio’s closeness to Perón doctrine “is based on the relationship between people’s theology and Peronism.” “The people’s theology, which was far from the Marxist liberation theology, which had great influence in Latin America in the 1970s but not in Argentina, recognized that people already had their own faith and wisdom, and the priest had to accompany them with this faith from the Gospel.”

Former President of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, greets the Pope after the Pope’s Inaugural Mass in the Vatican.France Press agency

From the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio maintained a strained relationship with Archbishops Nestor and Christina Kirchner. It was, according to Laraque, “a leadership problem, of what is the voice of the political leader and what is the voice of the religious leader”. The relationship changed in 2013, when Christina Kirchner realized that as president, fighting with the Pope wasn’t a good idea. He traveled to Santa Marta and met for a long time with a religious leader who until then had been considered an opponent of his administration. “Kirshner was told not to mess with Pope and just do what he had to do. But that doesn’t end well, because she starts abusively exploiting the relationship and he’s terrible at it, and he doesn’t like being taken advantage of,” Rubin says.

In 2015, Mauricio Macri arrived at the Casa Rosada and later that photo as Francisco looked annoyed after a meeting that lasted only 22 minutes. The relationship between the two wasn’t the best, partly because of “people like Marcos Peña [jefe de Ministros] They’re telling Macri to stay away from the Pope, Rubin says, to show he’s progressive. Alberto Fernandez scrambled to visit the pope as soon as he took office in 2019, but the president’s insistence on declaring him almost a personal advisor to his government cooled the relationship. A coup de grace took place in December 2020 with the approval of legal abortion in Argentina.

Pope Francis and Mauricio Macri during a February 2016 meeting in Vatican City.

“Francisco is aware of his political use in Argentina and believes that there is a lot of political manipulation. Ruben explains that he does not cry in the corners, he talks about situations, not about people. And are the conditions right for you to finally visit Argentina? Francisco himself said in a recent interview with the portal infobae It “could be,” but only once the general election in October is over. “During the election period, no trips to countries are made, to prevent the ruling party from being used to being there for re-election or something. I want to go to Argentina,” he said.

If he hasn’t done so by now, it’s because he “didn’t want to fall into the cracks of those conservative Catholics who would somehow reprimand him for his way of approaching the poor,” says Laraque. For Robin, the visitation was possible during the first months of the papacy, but then it was too late. He says: “He entered the rift, and his visit will be a cause for tremendous controversy. As a politician, he wants to contribute to unity, and whether it will come is more division, or it will come,” he warns.

“We trust in your wisdom to say yes and when”

Argentine politicians do not quit. On Monday, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of his pontificate, they sent Francis a letter expressing their “admiration and closeness” for his work for the poor. The letter was signed by Fernandez and Kirchner, as well as opposition figures such as the head of the Buenos Aires City Government, Horacio Rodriguez Larreta, and former governor María Eugenia Vidal, as well as 13 acting provincial leaders, unionists or leaders. of social movements. Many of them do not speak to each other, when they do not have open confrontations through the media. Former boss Mauricio Macri did not join, although promoters continued to add autographs.

The miracle of loneliness culminated in a request to visit Argentina. We know the resistance your work engenders among those who might perceive illegitimate interests as being affected. Although we desire and look forward to your visit, we trust in your wisdom to say yes and ultimately when.” Argentines will have to wait at least until the presidential election passes. And then it will show.

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