In their first meeting since Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis, Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner asked the pontiff to “mediate” in the dispute over the Falkland Islands.
“This is an important moment for us,” Kirchner said, during a press conference following the lunch meeting. “I asked him for his mediation to try to find a dialogue on the question of the Falkland Islands.”
As we’ve explained before, “Argentina and the U.K. have [disputed the territory] since 1982, when Argentina invaded the islands and that ended in a British victory that killed 650 Argentinian troops and 250 British personnel.”
Kirchner said that she brought up the issue with Pope Francis because back in 1978, Pope John Paul II intervened to avoid all-out war between Argentina and Chile over three islands at the southern tip of South America.
“I asked for his mediation to avoid problems that could emerge from the militarization of the United Kingdom in the South Atlantic,” Kirchner said. “We want a dialogue and that is why we asked the pope to mediate: so that the dialogue is successful.”
The Guardian reports that Britain reacted forcefully to the news. It reports:
“The UK ambassador to the Vatican, Nigel Baker, said: “The Holy See’s position on the Falkland Islands has for some time been that it is a matter between two sovereign states and that the Holy See does not have a role to play. We expect that position to continue.”
“Fernández was one of many heads of state flying into Rome for Francis’s inaugural papal mass on Tuesday.”
As the AP reports, Kirchner and Pope Francis haven’t always seen eye to eye. The AP adds:
“As leader of Argentina’s Catholics, he had accused her populist government of demagoguery, while she called his position on gay adoptions reminiscent of the Middle Ages and the Inquisition.
“But where the Falklands are concerned, Francis has been quoted as saying that Britain “usurped” the remote islands, which Argentina claims and calls the Malvinas.”
Besides politics, Kirchner gave the pope a kit to make the Argentinean herbal tea mate.
She said that like always, she was struck by Pope Francis’ simplicity, which she called his “defining characteristic.”
The pope will be officially installed during a mass on Tuesday.