The first pope from Latin America met at the Vatican yesterday with the new leader of his homeland Argentina which is struggling with huge debt, poverty and drugs trafficking.
The meeting between Pope Francis and President Mauricio Macri marked a new stage in the often tense relations between Argentina and the Holy See, especially over social issues such as gay civil unions.
“This was a meeting of old acquaintances,” Macri told journalists afterwards, saying they discussed “problems like poverty and drugs trafficking”.
A statement issued by the Vatican also said that the two talked about those issues along with human rights, peace and social justice, and the church’s contribution to Argentinian society, “especially to the younger generations”.
Francis was the former cardinal of Buenos Aires and he knew the centre-right Macri when he was mayor of the Argentinian capital from 2007 to 2015.
His relations with Macri were rather tense, with the future pope seen as more left-leaning.
Asked about the possibility of the Pope visiting Argentina, Macri said that Francis didn’t expect to come this year, but that he would visit “as soon as possible”.
Macri is also expected to meet during his visit to Italy President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi before returning to Argentina today.
Since taking over in December from his leftist predecessor Cristina Kirchner, pro-business Macri has made it a priority to mend relations with foreign powers and investors, after a dispute erupted over debts dating back to Argentina’s 2001 default.
US President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Argentina in March.
In a recent interview with AFP, Macri said the visit shows the country is returning to the international fold after years of tension.
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