Pope Francis’ long-awaited trip to his native Argentina is in the works – not long after an invitation from one of his fiercest critics.
The pontiff told Mexican broadcaster Televisa’s N+ news service that a visit to his native Argentina is “pending” – just weeks after an invitation from the newly elected President Javier Milei, who previously called the pope an “imbecile.”
“In an election campaign, things are said ‘in jest’ – they are said seriously, but they are provisional things, things that are used to create a bit of attention, but which later fall away by themselves,” Francis said of Milei.
A former frontman of a classic rock band, Milei has tempered his past posturing against the pope, who he previously described as someone “who preaches Communism.”
Milei invited the pontiff to visit the home country after receiving an unexpected phone call from the Vatican two days after his election.
“We are pleased to announce that His Holiness, Pope Francis, spoke with our future president to congratulate him and to express his wishes for the unity and progress for our country,” Milei’s office announced last month.
Pope Francis said of the president’s tempered rhetoric, “You have to distinguish a lot between what a politician says in the election campaign and what he or she is really going to do afterward, because then comes the moment of concrete things, of the decisions.”
Francis has yet to visit Argentina since his election to the papacy in 2013.
Familia Grande Hogar de Cristo – a Argentinian ministry focused on helping in addiction recovery – began a campaign in November urging the pope to visit Argentina.
“His words, his gestures, his presence will do us good because we desire a country full of love and social justice,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Catholic ministry added, “Just as he taught us, the challenge is to receive life as it comes with an eye toward those on the side of the road.”