Delicate diplomacy: Pope meets Argentinian president
VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Francis' diplomatic skills were put to the test on Monday during his inaugural audience with a visiting head of state as he met with his political nemesis, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, and was asked to intervene in the dispute with Britain over the Falkland Islands.
It was a baptism by fire, given that the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires has been on record as saying Britain "usurped" the remote islands from Argentina and last year paid homage to the Argentinians who were killed trying "to reclaim what is theirs for the fatherland". Argentina and Britain fought a 1982 war over the islands, which Argentina calls Malvinas. Earlier this month, the islanders voted overwhelmingly to remain a British Overseas Territory.
There was no indication that Francis, now pope, would take up the request from Ms Fernandez, with whom he has clashed for years over her populist policies on gay marriage and other hot-button issues like birth control that will soon confront Francis on a global scale as leader of the world's 1.2-billion Catholics.
Francis may well map out some of his own priorities in his Installation Mass on Tuesday, which some 130 government delegations and scores of Jewish, Orthodox and other Christian representatives will attend. Italian news reports say civil protection officials are gearing up for as many as one million people to flock to the event.