Argentina at the Vatican: Milei meets Pope Francis at Mama Antula canonization

The two embraced after the mass dedicated to María Antonia de Paz y Figueroa, the first woman born in Argentina to become a saint

Pope Francis and President Javier Milei met for the first time on Sunday morning as the pontiff canonized Argentina’s María Antonia de Paz y Figueroa — known as “Mama Antula.” After the mass, the two shared a brief embrace and are set to have a private meeting on Monday.

The president had a front-row seat for the service, and at the end of it, exchanged a few words with the pope, as they shook hands and hugged. 

Born in Santiago del Estero in 1730, Mama Antula was the daughter of a wealthy landholder and enslaver. She is worshipped as a laywoman who defied societal expectations, from opposing slavery to refusing to get married, walking thousands of kilometers barefoot despite the Jesuits being banished at the time from Latin America.

Francis, himself a Jesuit, described her on Friday as a “gift to the Argentine people and also to the entire Church.”

Quoting from his past writings, the pope condemned the “radical individualism” that permeates society as a “virus” — words that jar with Milei’s radical free-market instincts.

In his homily on Sunday, he returned to the issue of caring for the poor and outcasts, saying “fear, prejudice and false religiosity” lead people to the “great injustice” of ignoring the plight of the weak.

Milei was joined by Presidency Secretary Karina Milei (who is also his sister), Foreign Minister Diana Mondino, Human Capital Minister Sandra Pettovello and Interior Minister Guillermo Francos.

Before going into politics, Milei described the Pope as “the representative of the Evil One on Earth.” In September, he said that “the pope is a political player who has shown affinity for dictators” and “murderous communists,” citing Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and Cuban politician Raúl Castro. 

Milei has softened his tone since becoming president, telling Radio Mitre on Saturday that the pope “is the most important Argentine in history.” The Pope has said that Milei’s past attacks did not offend him, adding that “words in campaigning come and go.”

In January, Milei invited Pope Francis to visit Argentina in a letter in which he recognized his austerity and economic deregulation measures might “broaden inequity.” In this context, he added, the pontiff’s presence would be positive for the Argentine people.

A few days later, Francis said that the people of Argentina were suffering and that he hopes to be able to make his first trip back to his homeland from August onwards, after a planned visit to some countries in Polynesia. He hasn’t visited since becoming pope in 2013.



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