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Pope Francis: Unwitting Victim of Political Stunt or Not?

Pope Francis created quite a stir recently when he allowed himself, whether unwittingly or not, to be photographed holding a sign saying ‘It’s time for dialogue between Argentina and the UK on the Falklands’.  It was thrust into the Pope’s hands during a general audience by Argentine activist, Gustavo Hoyo, who runs a campaign calling itself “Dialogo por Malvinas”.  Private photographs of the incident quickly went viral, as President Cristina de Kirchner tweeted it to her followers in Argentina.  Argentine Government representatives, including Ambassador Castro and Daniel Filmus, claimed papal support for Argentina’s sovereignty claim.

Vatican officials, on the other hand, down-played the incident suggesting that the Pope had unwittingly held the sign without necessarily reading its content.  Hoyo disputes this, saying that the Pope could have refused to take it, decided nevertheless to do so, and had told him ‘in low tones but strong voice’ to ‘go forward forcefully’ (“sigan adelante con fuerza”).

This was undoubtedly a political stunt by Hoyo, which most probably caught the Pope off guard.  Whilst it may not be possible to establish whether or not the Pope did comment as claimed, he almost certainly shares its sentiment.  As Cardinal Bergoglio and Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he strongly supported the Argentine sovereignty claim.  During the mass on the 30th anniversary of the 1982 conflict, for example, he called for prayers for Argentinian soldiers who had fallen, defending their ‘homeland’.

That said, it remains Vatican policy not to become involved in the issue and it would require a very determined Pope to secure a policy shift – and there is no sign of that.

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