Argentine President Milei and Pope Francis hold first talks

World Monday 12/February/2024 16:21 PM
By: DW
Argentine President Milei and Pope Francis hold first talks

Vatican: Pope Francis and Argentina's President Javier Milei held their first at-length meeting at the Vatican on Monday.

The two Argentinians spoke for 70 minutes with no translation required, although the content of the meeting has not immediately been made available.

Libertarian economist Milei — who was sworn in as Argentina's new president in December — had previously been critical of the pope while campaigning during the election.

Milei had accused the pope of political interference and called him an "imbecile" who "promotes communism."

The two briefly met after Sunday mass that saw Argentina's first female saint, Mama Antula, canonised, with indications that last year's comments were now water under the bridge.

On Sunday, the pope who was in a wheelchair, went to greet Milei after the service and smiled at him, extended his hand and exclaimed, "You cut your hair!"

Milei, known for his unconventional hairstyle, joked about having cleaned up his act and asked if he could hug and kiss the pope. Francis smile and replied: "Yes, son, yes".

During Monday's meeting, Milei gave the pope several presents, including biscuits from Argentina that the pope is said to enjoy, a government spokesman said.

It's likely the president and pontiff — who both hail from Buenos Aires — discussed the possibility of a papal visit to Argentina.

In November, Pope Francis called to congratulate Milei on his election victory, and the president in turn asked Francis to return to Argentina.

The pope has not visited his country of birth since becoming head of the Catholic church in 2013 and while he has indicated he would like to return, no date has been set.

Argentina is facing its worst economic crisis in decades, with inflation at more than 200% and Milei having had a turbulent few weeks in office after parliament rejected a major reform package.