In light of tomorrow’s May Revolution anniversary — it’s Argentina’s most important national day, come on, you know this — Pope Francis yesterday sent President Mauricio Macri a letter calling for Argentine “reconciliation and fraternity,” to which Macri cordially replied with a letter agreeing to search for unity.
“On the day this beloved nation celebrates its national holiday, I’m pleased to express my cordial congratulations… and I pray to the Lord that all Argentines have the possibility to move forward towards common good, reconciliation and fraternity,” reads the Pope’s brief, brief message.
While the whole exchange is outwardly polite, it appears to further point to what is commonly believed to be a rift between Macri and the Pope. In fact, prominent members of the Church have vocally expressed their displeasure with Macri’s administration these last few weeks in light of a difficult economic situation that’s especially harming the poor and working classes and exacerbating the political divide in the country.
Here we take a look at the Church’s grievances against Macri’s administration.
A ‘Concerning’ Employment Situation
Following a summit this weekend, the Episcopal Social Pastoral Commission — an organization that bears the most Catholic name you’ve ever read but which also includes lay politicians, union leaders and businessmen — issued a statement warning about the country’s precarious employment situation.
The document then goes on to warn about the danger of other devilish habits such as gambling, drug-trafficking and corruption, because of course.
Later, while speaking to press, Jorge Lozano, the head of the organization, also said the Pope is worried about the “vengeful climate” which permeates the country: “We are worried about the judiciary not being able to work independently, keeping the same criteria for all citizens. To have everyone considered equal before the law and innocent until proven otherwise,” he concluded. Considering a number of high-profile Kirchnerites are currently indicted or on trial, there is some fear that what is actually going on is more of a witch hunt against former government officials than a mere search for justice.
UCA Study On Precarious Employment Situation
At the same time that the Pastoral Commission was issuing the aforementioned document, the Catholic University of Argentina (UCA) published a study claiming that more than 10 million Argentines are currently suffering due to the country’s precarious employment situation. No break for the government.
According to the study, in the last five years, job creation has remained basically stagnant and has instead been replaced with underemployment (working few hours) and job insecurity. To make matters worse, rising inflation has reduced households’ purchasing power and created what UCA denotes as the “new poor.” As a result, the levels of poverty among Argentines have risen significantly.
Cambiemos Reacts To Church Criticisms
Following the publication of the study, Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña admitted yesterday that the Church has a point and said the country is at “its worst moment” in terms of employment: “We are working on all possible measures to avoid deepening the crisis,” Peña said in an interview with Radio La Red.
According to La Nación, Peña has met with different bishops in an attempt to reconcile the Church and government. This week, he met at the Casa Rosada with Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, who besides being UCA’s dean is also one of the apparently million people who talks to the Pope on an almost daily basis.
The goal, the outlet says, is for Macri to be on decent terms with the Church in order to be able to celebrate May 25th’s traditional ceremony in the Cathedral without bursting into flames the moment he sets foot in there.
And What About Macri And The Pope?
Despite always using the typical friendly diplomatic language in their official communications, many speculate the relations between Macri’s administration and the Church is quite rocky due to their differences over social and human rights policies.
The tension between Macri and the Pope, specifically, appears to have originated at two moments when Macri was mayor of the City of Buenos Aires’ Mayor and the Pope was still Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio. The first happened in 2009, when the Church went up in arms after the City Government decided not to appeal a ruling that allowed the first same-sex marriage in the country. According to La Nación, Macri and Bergoglio held a meeting to see if they could come to terms, but they didn’t succeed.
The second happened in September 2012, when the City Government — of which Macri was still mayor — enacted a protocol that allowed women to have abortions if the pregnancy endangered the mother’s life or health or if it was a consequence of rape. And you know how the Church feels about telling women what to do with their uterus.