Pope and Milei meet as Argentina gains first female saint

Pope and Milei meet as Argentina gains first female saint
Javier Milei and the Pope holding hands and talkingVATICAN/EPA

Argentina’s first female saint was canonised on Sunday, in an event which brought Pope Francis and the country’s president face-to-face for the first time.

President Javier Milei, a libertarian, had previously said the Pope was an “imbecile” who “promotes communism”.

He has since toned down his criticism after taking office in December.

Mr Milei travelled to the Vatican for the Mass at St Peter’s Basilica, where he met and hugged the 87-year-old Pope.

They will meet again in a private audience at the Vatican on Monday.

María Antonia de Paz y Figueroa, known as Mama Antula, was an 18th-Century laywoman who is considered by some to be Argentina’s first feminist.

She renounced her family’s riches to minister to the poor, and helped keep the Jesuit movement alive in Argentina after the religious order – to which the Pope belongs – was suppressed.

The Pope described her on Friday as a “gift to the Argentine people and also to the entire Church”.

The meeting between the political and religious leaders comes amid major political uncertainty in Argentina – where inflation has soared to 200% and 40% of the population lives in poverty.

Thousands of Argentines have protested against Mr Milei’s economic policies, which include deep spending cuts and a 50% devaluation of the Argentine peso.

He has also announced plans to slash workers’ rights, abolish rent caps and remove government subsidies on everyday items.

Mr Milei has said the country needs “economic shock therapy” to fix its current economic crisis, deemed the worst in decades.

Shortly after his election win in November, Mr Milei invited the Pope – whom he addressed as “Your Holiness” – to visit Argentina in 2024.

The religious leader, who is from Buenos Aires, has not visited his home country since becoming Pope in 2013.

Source: bbc.co.uk

By David Ryckman