Alberto Fernández’s phrase synthesizes what he and the Argentine delegation in Rome perceive after the interview with Pope Francis. “He expressed his idea of supporting us in everything,” said the President after his personal dialogue and alone with Jorge Bergoglio. The details of what was spoken during the half hour that the meeting lasted will remain for both interlocutors, but it is clear that Francisco does not stop looking at his homeland and that, despite the complexity of the world agenda that is open to his eyes and his responsibilities, devotes special attention to the problems facing Argentina.
So much so that, without losing the stamp of discretion that is characteristic of Vatican diplomacy and also following the style of Bergoglio himself, the Pope – also his collaborators – has been in charge of sending messages supporting the efforts that Argentina has been doing in favor of the renegotiation of the debt. We will not have to wait for public statements in this regard. Nor do we overstate the incidence of Francis and the Vatican in this matter. The gestures are consistent with the message that Bergoglio has been holding on the matter and that was clearly expressed in the recent letter addressed to the World Bank Group (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in which he called for the “spirit of global solidarity” to urgently generate “a global governance plan” that includes, among other issues, “effective participation in decision-making and facilitating access to the international market” by the poorest and least developed nations, “a reduction of the debt burden of poor nations ”and the recognition of the“ ecological debt ”that exists between the North and the South.
Francisco received the President despite some messages to the contrary that came from Argentina and from the ecclesiastical institution itself. Also leaving aside the fact that it is an electoral year, a political event with which the pontiff seeks not to get involved in any way. The meeting between Bergoglio and Fernández at the Vatican served to ratify the Pope’s willingness to continue collaborating, within his powers and possibilities, so that Argentina finds alternatives to get out of its economic crisis, also thinking that the most affected are the poor. Francisco does not lose sight of the seriousness of the debt issue and does not minimize the importance of the problem, but His main concern is centered on the high level of poverty that persists in Argentina. Without disconnecting one topic from the other, the latter was also very present in the dialogue with the President.
All eyes – especially those of journalism – were focused on the direct dialogue between Fernández and the Pope. But to understand the significance of the relationship, we must also record the continuity of the subsequent exchange of the President with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and the strategy mounted by the Vatican to generate spaces so that Argentine officials – read Martín Guzmán, read Gustavo Beliz- meet with different interlocutors to continue looking for formulas to overcome the debt problem. In the same spirit, the Holy See made agendas coincide so that Alberto Fernández also has a hand in hand with Kristalina Giorgieva in the Vatican.
It is not just about coincidences, but about a thoughtful strategy aimed at adding support for the Argentine efforts and in that there is no doubt that the Pope is committed. This is beyond the dark clouds that the recent approval of the law of voluntary interruption of pregnancy placed on the horizon of the relationship between the Casa Rosada and the Holy See. From Argentina, several bishops raised their annoyance with the Pope at the Executive’s attitude towards the issue and asked him to make the discomfort known.
But above all, Francisco’s main concern is the reality of poverty in Argentina. That is the theme that reveals him and that also predisposes him to offer his support in everything that contributes to modifying this difficult situation. In this the Pope also listens to the bishops of the country who are constantly warning him about the seriousness of the social question.
The President listened to the Pope’s commitment to continue supporting Argentina in its efforts. More than an objective in itself, for Francisco the endorsement of the negotiations with the Fund has the ultimate purpose of contributing to the reduction of poverty in his country.