From Buenos Aires to the Denzinger-Bergoglio
Note to the Dz_B-EN edition: Though most of the news items cited in this post were silenced by the English press, we have preferred to publish it (with appropriate translations) since it will offer our readers a new perspective on Francis’ Argentinean roots.
Some time ago, a tidbit of news was publicized and quickly spread around the globe: Francis had renewed his Argentinean passport “without privileges”, in Rome, for international travel. “This new gesture of the Pope to our country fills us with pride” affirmed the Kirchnerist Minister Randazzo. (Vatican Insider, February 17, 2014). Actually, this original approach was entirely out of place, since, as head of the Vatican State, Francis’ Argentinean nationality is totally irrelevant. Moreover, the question of a passport is a strictly personal issue of no interest for such travel details (paperwork, stamps, taxes, luggage weight, etc.), whether of a pontiff or of any other mere mortal, are totally insignificant. What is important is the trip itself and its objectives. Perhaps this was a gesture aimed at bolstering the steadily dwindling membership of his fan club…
But what brings us to this topic, after all, is a reality that has been puzzling Argentineans: the aforementioned passport has not yet brought Francis back to his homeland. Why not? We believe we have some clues, and would like to share with our readers.
We recall how, when proclaimed pontiff, Pope Bergoglio made a request to the Bishops and the Argentinean faithful, through the ambassador in Rome, to not travel to the Eternal City to celebrate, in order to “offer the money to the poor” (Reuters, March 15, 2013). It was a strange proposal, one that would tend to dampen the enthusiasm of so many of the faithful who were formerly sheep of his immense flock in the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires. It seems he made this request without even a thought for the many families that depend on their salaries from airlines to subsist, so as not to be numbered among the poor that Francis sought to aid. Or, who knows, perhaps this suggestion was made with the objective of disguising the limited fervor of many compatriots and, moreover, the absence of certain eminent personalities who would absolutely not travel to congratulate him. Evidently, many Argentineans would travel anyway. But having made his appeal, Francis had himself covered, since both those who would and those who wouldn’t go to Rome would project the desired image. It was as if to say: “despite the fact that I told them not to, they came; and the others didn’t come because I had asked them not to…” What a clever solution!
Of course Cristina Kirchner rushed off to Rome, without a thought of saving for the poor with her private jet and her affluently designer wardrobe; and to top it all off, she had a private lunch with the Pope which lasted two hours! Actually, she had the audacity to arrive ten minutes late…and Francis, quite inappropriately, gave her a kiss. The president, touched by this gesture, later declared; “Never in my life has a pope kissed me!” (Vatican Insider, March 18, 2013). No comment. So far, in his short pontificate, Francis has been with Kirchner seven times (four in Rome, once in Cuba, once in Brazil and another in Paraguay). It is really a bit too much.
On the other hand, the current Argentinean president, Mauricio Macri, was received by a taciturn Francis for a mere 22-minutes, in stark contrast with the chuckles, jokes, hugs and kisses that he had shared in with Cristina as well as Maduro, Evo Morales, Correa, Castro and other such characters, not to mention politicians, soccer players, models, and even Argentinean comedians (Carlitos Balá and the clown Plim Plim). Each host chooses his guests…
Francis has spoken of his desire to visit Argentina on various occasions. In January, 2015, he declared that: “Next year God willing, but everything is still in draft, I would like to go to Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.” (America Magazine, January 19, 2015) He never bothered to fulfill this promise…which reminds us of his populist friends. In September 2015, the head of ceremony and protocol in the Vatican, Msgr. Guillermo Karcher, Argentinean like Bergoglio, affirmed that the visit of the Pontiff would be in the year 2017, and not 2016, as had been initially planned. While in Mexico, on February 14, 2016, Fr. Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See Press Office assured listeners that the Holy Father would travel to his homeland, but asked for patience: “Federico Lombardi on Monday said Pope Francis will visit his homeland Argentina, but added that neither the dates nor the itinerary for such a visit have yet been set” (La Gazetta, February 15, 2016). Mauricio Macri invited Francis to Argentina and the Pope replied that this year he would not be able to but that he would travel there “as soon as possible”, and that at the moment his schedule didn’t permit.
What is it, then, that prevents this travelling Pope from inhaling the salutary air of the Argentinean capital (Buenos Aires translates literally as ‘good air’)?
It must be known that Francis doesn’t enjoy unanimous acclaim in his country. Though normally, this would be quite explainable, because a figure at the head of the Church will always and everywhere have both followers and opposition, it so happens that because of his misguided positions and double language, the ex-archbishop of Buenos Aires is not at all liked.
Much has been said in Argentina (and around the world) that the then Father, later Bishop, and now Bishop of Rome Bergoglio, had collaborated with the military dictatorship. Or at least he had not energetically opposed the regime when it violated human rights. Even the compassionate white-scarved mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who organized themselves against the human-rights violations said so…But later afterwards the mothers, the grandmothers, the media in general and even controversial people such as Adolfo Pérez Esquivel – who in his day had thundered against the Archbishop of Buenos Aires – were progressively silenced.
See also: Adolfo Pérez Esquivel’s recent declaration: “Pope Francis did silent diplomacy under the dictatorship” [El papa Francisco hizo una diplomacia silenciosa bajo la dictadura] (20Minutos, March 21, 2013).
Also, much ado was made about the so-called enmity between Archbishop Bergoglio and the Kirchner couple. This discord did nothing but lend prestige to the present Pope Francis, for while able to continue with his Peronist ideas intact, the cold shoulder he supposedly gave to the shady characters in power helped to keep his curriculum less stained.
One of the ugliest issues is the conduct of the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires with the “Slum Priests” [Curas Villeros], representatives of the “theology of the people”. His relationship with this ideological/pastoral movement is recognized by the Vatican itself through an authorized spokesperson (‘The relation between Francis’ pastoral and the Theology of the People: a conversation with Fr. Scannonne (Spanish) – Vatican Radio, March 29, 2014).
A university thesis (UBA) by Fortunato Mallimaci in 2013, in which the figure of the new Pope is analyzed, provides interesting information (“Bergoglio’s Argentinean Catholicism and Francis’ Papacy. A first approach from Argentina” [El catolicismo argentino de Bergoglio y el papado de Francisco. Una primera aproximación desde la Argentina]). “As Archbishop of the city of Buenos Aires he strived and managed to put the finances into order, although to date there is not the least stipend for all of the priests of the diocese who are left to their own devices to obtain their subsistence. With a total of almost 900 priests living in Buenos Aires including a significant percentage of elderly ones, there are 24 that have the mission of living in the poor neighborhoods of the city, in what is called the ‘Slum Ministry’ that dates back to the 70’s. These priests do receive a subsidy as priests sustained by the Archbishop and they enjoy his full support” (Scielo, Soc. relig. vol.23 no.40 Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires jul./oct. 2013).
Meanwhile, there is an alarming crisis of priestly vocations in the Archdiocese. This year, 2016, only three priests will be ordained! “The instructors of the seminarians acknowledge that there are still no signs of vitality and renovation that could prevent the decline of priestly vocations. Neither in Argentina nor in the Archdiocese itself which has produced a Pope for the command of the Universal Church. Perhaps the answers, rather than in secular society, are to be found in the ecclesial reality itself” (“Priesthood: The vocational crises impacts the Church”, [Sacerdocio: La crisis de vocaciones impacta en la Iglesia], Clarin, March 6, 2016). Who sowed these winds? It is not difficult to respond.
Regarding the crises of the Church in Argentina it is worthwhile to read an article in Spanish by Marcelo Larraquy published in the Clarín: “The slow agony of the conservative Bishops” [La lenta agonía de los obispos conservadores], where the differences between Bergoglio and the conservative bishops, Aguer, Sarlinga and Mollaghan, become clear (Clarín, February 2, 2014).
At the same time, while the pillars of the edifice of the traditional Church crumble, the leader of the “Slum Priests” [Curas villeros], Father Pepe, with airs of a hero, was already received twice by Francis (see also: La Stampa, March 9, 2015). And it is even feared that we shall soon have the Episcopal ordination of a “Slum Priest”. Journalist Alicia Barrios has expounded on the experiences she had in 15 years of friendship with Jorge Bergoglio in her book. She declares that “the Peron of the Popes” will bring many changes to the country. “Bergoglio is going to make many changes among the Bishops, for example, it won’t be surprising if one of the Slum Priests is among the next bishops” (Infobae, September 6, 2013).
Francis’ diminishing prestige is not only apparent within the Argentinean Church, but also in political and social fields. This study would become too extensive if we were to cite the many testimonies of what has just been affirmed. We will keep it down to four or five examples.
Elisa Carrió, a prominent representative of significant section of public opinion, threw the following dart: “I am profoundly regretful that when Francis comes to Argentina, he only knows how to see the [basic unit]”. And added: “I tell you, in the name of many Argentineans who are believers, that we have been celebrating. I knew before anyone else in Argentina, that he would be Pope. Don’t disappoint me, Francis, make sure you don’t get involved in Argentinean politics!” Carrió alluded to a tale of Jorge Luis Borges in affirming: “Francis, watch out! When you play in the universal, you move a piece [on the chess-board] and God moves your play. When you play in Argentina, you move as a man, not God” (La Nación, June 7, 2015).
Another news item sheds more light on the opinion of the same congresswoman Elisa Carrió (which is certainly also that of her numerous electorate): “I would not have gone [she refers to President Macri’s trip to Rome]. In fact, I went various times to Rome but I didn’t go there [the Vatican]. I am an absolute believer. But I make a distinction: priests shouldn’t interfere in politics. I don’t believe that Bergoglio has to become a basic unit in Argentina. I don’t believe that he should empower the violent. I am speaking of Milagro Sala [see study here] and Moreno. He knows well how to play the game of photos. And he has a double discourse with respect to Argentina: he surrounds himself with lesser personages and likes political gossip. I know him” (Clarín, February 28, 2016).
There is also a “An Open Letter from an Argentinean to the Argentinean Pope Francis” [Carta Abierta de una argentina al argentino Papa Francisco], published by the blogger Alesia Miguens, which harshly questions the management of Pope Francis in the most diverse areas of thought and praxis. We recommend its reading: www.informadorpublico.com
Also in circulation is a petition with nothing less than a request for Pope Francis not to visit Argentina: “Due to the rejection of the pope to the current Argentinean government of Mauricio Macri, and due to his preference for the Peronist-Kirchnerist ideologies and politics, which have done much harm to our dear country and which we are attempting to eradicate and repair, we ask the Pope and the authorities of the Vatican that they suspend any plan that the High Pontiff has to come to our country. Due to the fact that this would cause great social unease, strengthening the so-called “resistance” to change: (Change.org).
Perhaps one of Francis’ most disconcerting interventions was his interference in national politics, at the height of the Argentinean electoral campaign, when there were only four days left for the presidential election. When a journalist of the news agency DyN solicited “a message for the Argentineans” at the Wednesday General Audience, at first the Pontiff refused by affirming: “They already know what I think.” But then added: “May they vote according to their conscience.”
Cristina’s protégé, Daniel Scioli, hastened to interpret the Pope’s thought affirming that the declaration was in his favor. “The words of Pope Francis are very important for the Argentineans to vote according to conscience; this must make us all reflect with respect to the actions of savage capitalism that wants to put Argentina on its knees again” (Infobae, November 18, 2015).
In turn, Jaime Durán Barba, president Mauricio Macri’s political analyst, made a remark that is somewhat irreverent but not ungrounded: “What the Pope says doesn’t even change the vote of ten people”… (Día a Día, November 19, 2015).
The results, in some way, gave credit to the political analyst…
In light of these examples and the numerous others not mentioned here, what is it that impedes the Pope from going back to the ‘good air’ of the Argentinean capital?
The Argentinean people are Catholic, they love the Papacy and enjoy contact with the Vicar of Christ. But if they do not feel this way towards a populist spokesman, who upsets all with his warped interventions…it is the case to ask: what is going on? Time will tell.