Argentina opts for family man to help patch up ties with Vatican

September 22, 2008

Pope Benedict meets ambasadors to the Holy See, 9 January 2006/poolArgentina is making a second bid to improve relations with the Vatican after its first attempt caused a diplomatic blunder because Buenos Aires proposed a divorced Catholic with a live-in partner as its new ambassador to the Holy See. The new nominee is reported to be a safer bet. Former government minister Juan Pablo Cafiero is married and the father of four children. In a radio interview over the weekend, he defended the centre-left government as  “the first government in decades that has focused on the distribution of wealth and a preference for the poor … linked to a concept of social justice that is based on humanistic, Christian thinking.”

Local media reported earlier this year that Argentina might leave the post vacant after the Vatican gave a thumbs down to former Justice Minister Alberto Iribarne. The Vatican never actually rejected his nomination. It just never confirmed it, which was a clear message that he didn’t have a prayer. As befits a future ambassador, Cafiero made no reference to that diplomatic faux pas.

The Roman Catholic Church does not approve of divorce and Catholics who do end their marriages are required to seek an annulment from the Church before they can remarry with the Church’s blessing.

Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez De Kirchner, 2 August 2008/Enrique MarcarianRelations with the Church were rocky under the government of Nestor Kirchner, the husband and predecessor of President Cristina Fernandez.  He criticized church complicity during the country’s brutal 1976-1983 military dictatorship. And his health minister, who favored loosening restrictions on abortion, had an ugly, public spat with the bishop that tended to the country’s military forces. That bishop was removed and never replaced, and rumors have abounded that the government wants to scrap the post of military bishop altogether as a way of retaliating against the Vatican.

Fernandez tried to patch up ties after taking office last December, meeting right away with the head of the Argentine Bishops’ Conference.  But she stumbled when the Vatican quietly rejected her nomination of Iribarne as ambassador to the Holy See.

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