Argentina’s Javier Milei, Who Once Called Pope an ‘Imbecile,’ to Visit Vatican

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Pope Francis issued a formal invitation on Friday to Argentine President Javier Milei to visit The Vatican in February. The Pope’s invitation was issued hours after Milei similarly extended a formal invitation to Pope Francis to visit his homeland.

According to Argentine newspaper La Nación, which confirmed the pope’s invitation, Milei will visit the Vatican to participate in the canonization of Argentine Blessed Maria Antonia of St. Joseph, commonly referred to as “Mama Antula,” who will soon be proclaimed as Argentina’s first saint on February 11. Milei and Pope Francis are scheduled to meet privately on the sidelines of the canonization.

The exchange of official invitations shifts the dynamic between Milei and Pope Francis. Milei has for years been a vocal public critic of the pope, both as a television personality and following the launch of his political career.

Milei, a libertarian economist, was widely known for his economic analysis, outspoken condemnations of both socialism and communism, and television appearances before his successful run as an outsider presidential candidate in 2023.

In one such television appearance, dated 2020, Milei accused Pope Francis of being an “imbecile who defends social justice,” a “son of a bitch preaching communism,” and “the representative of the evil one on Earth.”

The harsh comments issued by Milei at the time resurfaced during last year’s presidential campaign.

File/ A mural depicting Pope Francis is seen as people wait on traffic lights on November 30, 2023 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Tomas Cuesta/Getty Images)

Milei issued public apologies for his past comments, maintaining all throughout his campaign that, if elected president, he would respect Pope Francis as “the head of the Catholic Church,” describing him as the “spiritual leader” of the majority of Argentines and adding that the pope would receive a reception “befitting a head of state” should he decide to visit Argentina in 2024 under a then-prospective Milei presidency.

Shortly after being elected in November 19’s presidential runoff election, Milei confirmed that he held a “pleasant” telephone conversation with Pope Francis, who congratulated him for his electoral victory, wishing the best to the president-elect.

Milei said Pope Francis advised to face the new stage of his life with “wisdom and courage.” He said that he replied that “courage is not lacking, and I am working on wisdom,” and availed himself of the opportunity to assure Pope Francis that he would receive him in Argentina with “all the honors of a head of state and head of the Catholic Church.”

Milei formalized his invitation to the pope in a letter signed on Thursday, thanking Pope Francis for his counsel and wishes of courage and wisdom. The conversation, he wrote, was a gesture of encouragement “in addition to strengthening [his] conviction about the urgency of transforming the reality that [their] country is going through to ensure peace and prosperity, through the social and political reforms that are so necessary.”

“Your Holiness, we Argentines are going through times of affliction and hope. We observe around us how poverty, with its different faces and consequences, reaches half of our compatriots,” Milei wrote. “Our economy is in a critical state and measures must be taken to avoid a social catastrophe with painful consequences.”

The letter continued:

Bearing in mind your advice to have wisdom and the necessary courage, in my first weeks of government I have proceeded to propose a series of government measures aimed at transforming the situation that the Argentine Republic has been suffering for decades.
We are aware that these decisions may deepen inequities, so our top priority is to protect our most vulnerable compatriots, thanking the collaboration of the Catholic Church, whose action in the social field is invaluable.
You well know that you do not need an invitation to come to Argentina. At the risk of saying the unnecessary, I invite you to visit our beloved Homeland, according to the dates and places that will be indicated to us, bearing in mind the widespread desire of our cities, provinces and towns to count on your presence and to convey to you their filial affection.

“I know that time is short. Even so, I hope that you will be able to travel for the joy of all the Argentine people,” the letter read.

Milei’s visit to the Vatican and planned private meeting with Pope Francis will be preceded by an official visit to Jerusalem between February 5-9 in response to an invitation from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in December.

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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