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Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner shows a gift while standing next to Pope Francis during a private meeting at the Vatican, yesterday. Zimbawe’s President Robert Mugabe arrives at Fiumicino airport in Rome, Italy, yesterday to attend the inauguration of the Pope. The pontiff is to be inaugurated today.
VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis received compatriot President Cristina Kirchner of Argentina in the Vatican yesterday in his first meeting with a head of state as world leaders arrived in Rome ahead of his
The first pontiff from Latin America had testy relations with Kirchner when he was Buenos Aires’ archbishop, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, particularly over gay marriage and abortion laws.
Her late husband Nestor had called Bergoglio “the true head of the opposition” because of his behind-the-scenes meetings with political leaders. “The Holy Father is having lunch with the Argentine president following a private meeting that lasted 15-20 minutes,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.
The Pope has been winning hearts with his humble style but is still haunted by criticism from leftists at home for failing to speak out during Argentina’s brutal “Dirty War” when he was head of the country’s Jesuits.
The Vatican has firmly denied claims that he failed to protect two Jesuit priests who were tortured by the 1976-1983 regime, saying that he had in fact protected lives during the dictatorship.
The controversy has failed to dampen enthusiasm in Rome after a disarming style and some bold statements by Francis in the early day of his papacy.
He has called for a “poor Church for the poor”, has warned cardinals against worldly glories and has said the Church could crumble away “like a sand castle” without spiritual renewal.
The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics will be formally enthroned today at a mass in
St Peter’s Square, with city authorities preparing for an influx of up to a million people to Rome.
The mass begins at 0830 GMT and is a formality laden with symbolic rituals following Francis’s dramatic election by cardinals in a conclave last Wednesday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault are among European leaders set to attend, along with EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe flew into Rome yesterday, sidestepping a travel ban that applies to the EU but not to the sovereign Vatican City state.
Mugabe has been widely criticised for human rights abuses in the southern African country he has ruled uninterrupted
since 1980. As he arrived, there was fresh controversy in Zimbabwe over the arrest of four of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s aides and a prominent human rights lawyer.
A practising Catholic, the 89-year-old Mugabe visited the Vatican previously in 2011 for the beatification of late Pope John Paul II. In 2005, he attended John Paul II’s funeral on a visit that drew controversy after Britain’s Prince Charles shook hands
with him. AFP