In stifling heat, a couple of days after Alberto Fernandez decided not to travel to the polar cold of Antarctica and participate in the Tedeum in the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Pope Francisco received in Rome John Manuel OlmosChief of Advisors and one of the closest collaborators of the President.
The meeting, confirmed to this newspaper by official sources, occurred on Friday afternoon, in Santa Marta, and lasted for an hour and a half. Olmos and Francisco were not alone: María Rosa Muiños, head of the Buenos Aires Ombudsman and wife of the presidential adviser, also participated, who took advantage of the week to participate in a series of activities related to her role.
Olmos, a member of Fernández’s small table, he is the official with the best relationship with the Pope outside the ties that Francisco generated in these years with leaders who orbit in the Front of All, such as John Graboys.
The Chief of Advisors of the Casa Rosada He is directly related to Francisco and they have known each other for decades.: He baptized, for example, his children, and they maintain a seamless relationship that stands out in the universe of officials who try to take advantage of a supposed proximity to Rome whenever they can. One of them is Gustavo Béliz, whose relationship is limited to Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Vatican Academy of Sciences.
Pope Francis and María Rosa Muiños, defender of the City (Photo: Twitter @mariarosamuinos).
Few were aware of the papal audience last Friday. Yes, the head of state was awarewho spoke with his advisor before he traveled, earlier in the week: Fernández was still waiting for the climate report to advance on the planned trip to Antarctica to celebrate May 25, and thus be absent from the traditional Tedeum in the cathedral porteña which, finally, he attended with a good part of his cabinet.
This Friday’s visit to the Vatican – the last one, according to what they trusted from their surroundings, had been in 2019, before the pandemic – took place in a particular context, despite the efforts of the official communication to scare away the versions, of sources of tension between the Church and the Casa Rosada.
It’s one of the reasons why William Oliverithe Secretary of Worship, also with a good relationship with the Vatican, vehemently insisted behind closed doors for Fernández to participate in the homily offered by Mario Poli last Wednesday.
It’s just that there’s been a while sparks in the channels of communication between Rome and Buenos Aires, and the last one-on-one between Francis and the President, in May of last year, was a true reflection of those short-circuits: the Pope dedicated only twenty minutes to him for the private audience, and in the official photo between the two he showed his most grim. The supreme pontiff is perfectly aware of the power of images. Five months before that meeting, the Casa Rosada had celebrated the approval of abortion in Congress.
“We are doing quite well after being the government that approved abortion”relativized an official source who knows closely the twists and turns of the relationship.
However, in the official dispatches they assure that the presidential management is not entirely well considered by the Vatican. And that there were gestures and decisions by Fernández that did not go down well. Abortion is just one case.
In this context, excused by the ailment in one of his knees, the Pope collaborated with the political cliques when in mid-April he suspended the audience that he had scheduled with santiago cafiero, who had planned a tour of Italy to meet him. To make matters worse, that same day in the afternoon the Pope received a group of young missionaries. After that, the foreign minister and Francisco exchanged a brief, formal communication, to clear tensions.
The suspension of Cafiero, a leader close to the Church – his father was an ambassador to the Holy See – could not have fallen on the Government at a worse time: weeks before, the Pope had received in private, and alone, Eduardo “Wado” de Pedroa meeting -according to sources close to the Minister of the Interior, it lasted more than an hour- held by Kirchnerism.
The celebration was doubled when in the K offices they found out about the sit-in to the chancellor. After that, the President flirted for more than a week with the idea of traveling to Antarctica and being absent for the Tedeum.
In parallel, it transpired that Cristina Kirchner he was seeking in these times his own papal audience. A few weeks ago he had a trip to Morocco on the agenda that he had to suspend due to the President’s European tour. According to reports, he had a stopover in Rome, with endless speculation.
Happens that the internal tension between Fernández and the former President, between Kirchnerism and Albertism, is also measured by the closeness with the Vatican. In the Government they emphasize that the head of state and the Pope have known each other for years. They say that the first time they met was in the office of Carlos Cecchi, one of the most renowned dentists who holds a curious record: he attended two popes. In addition to Francisco, he urgently received John Paul II during one of his visits to Buenos Aires in the 1980s.