Pope Francis has seen himself once more navigating through controversy following journalist Alfredo Lueco’s open letter to the head of the Catholic church. Trouble started on April 9th as Lueco published the letter criticizing the Pope for agreeing to his fifth audience with Cristina on June 7th, which would fall in the heat of the electoral race.
Here is a brief rundown of the open-letter debate as it stands.
Alfredo Lueco, April 9th:
Lueco’s letter, while respectfully praising the Pope for his efforts and excusing himself as a journalist whose job it was to speak out, claimed a large proportion of Argentines were “upset, offended or disappointed” with the meeting. He added that the Pope was doing a disservice to the value of his word: that the Pope has confessed to feeling used by Argentine politicians for political gain, and that as a result he would not meet a single politician until after the elections. That to make an exception for Cristina would allow Kirchnerite candidates to claim a unique alignment with the Church, and that the photo of Pope Francis and Cristina would serve as propaganda unfairly bolstering support for Kirchnerite parties against a strong current of people demanding political change.
Pope Francis, Private Correspondence:
Yesterday, in typical conciliatory fashion, Pope Francis responded to Lueco in a private letter, and phone conversation. In it, the Pope gratefully recognizes the “calm tone” of the letter as indicative of a constructive desire to confront issues through peaceful discussion. Lueco and his son have been suffering abuse at the hands of K-bloggers, and after a request from Lueco, Pope Francis’ response was made public.
Sergio Rubin, April 15th:
Sergio Rubin, Clarín journalist, has published a second open letter today directed at those who take issue with Pope Francis’ decision. In it, he again outlines the complaint of many to be the hypocrisy of a Pope meeting with the Argentine head of state just after complaining of feeling used by the Argentine political system. These people, he argues, are not pacified by protestations that the Pope can’t refuse an audience with the president of his home country and one of the largest catholic nations, nor that La Casa Rosada had been asking insistently for months and that Pope Francis has only now accepted.
“Critics believe that you [Pope Francis] were protecting a sectarian President suspected of corruption that does not hesitate in charging at institutions- especially at Justice- and press freedoms in order to achieve her goals”.
Rubin’s letter questions why the Pope would align himself with a political party that launched a “vile smear campaign” against him during his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires for alleged involvement in the military dictatorship; he dismisses as “unlikely” claims that the Pope is doing so in exchange for more radio and TV frequencies for the Catholic church, and points out that many accusations are motivated by political hatred for the Pope and what he has supposedly “done to the country”.
Rubin’s assessment is that both Cristina and Pope Francis are leaving past affronts behind them and instead looking forward; that keeping Cristina’s administration in peaceful control until the end of its term is the best way to prevent the country from falling into crisis, but he points out that the old phrase “Cristina must be looked after” will soon have to be thrown out in favor of “the transition must be looked after”, or the more cumbersome, “we must help the new authorities and we must arrive at important agreements in order to confront the tremendous challenges faced by this country”. It is in this spirit, according to Rubin, that the Pope is making the rounds with candidates.
This defense based on non-partisan reconciliation is not necessarily looking good, though, given that the Pope just last month held a private meeting in the Vatican with Roberto Carlés, Kirchnerite candidate for the supreme court vacancy.