Pope Francis is from Argentine, from Latin America. Does it mean something politically?

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Question:

Does the fact that the new Pope is from Argentina mean something in the political sense for Argentina but also for whole Latin America or not, and why?

Answers?

W. Alex SanchezResearch Fellow, Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Latin American nations are very nationalist, we take great pride in whatever successes we achieve, be it that one of us was selected to be the secretary general of the UN (i.e. Javier Perez de Cuellar of Peru in the 1980s), sports achievements (i.e. Brazil’s domination of global football or Cuba’s great baseball or volleyball teams) or, in this case, religious appointments. Certainly, being a Pope is an apolitical position, and it shouldn’t matter where he comes from as he is supposed to work to help the whole catholic church, but obviously there is a degree of national pride to have a citizen of your nation to be the next leader of a church. From that perspective, certainly, it is a sense of Argentine pride that one of their own was chosen. President Kirchner has already declared that she will travel to the Vatican to see the ceremony when Francis  becomes the new pope. Certainly, she’ll try to parade this election as some kind of political victory that occurred under her presidential term.  She probably needs this after the recent nation-wide protests against her government (the cacelorazo) and the Falklands referendum. Nevertheless, I’ve already read commentaries that say that while this move may inject some “optimism” among the Argentine population, it won’t fix the country’s economy. Also, I should mention that it’s ironic how Kirchner has supported the new pope, considering that they have been at odds with each other in the recent past.

At the regional level, this was a smart move by the Catholic church as most Catholics are outside of Europe. But this change may only be “skin deep.” Francis is known for his conservative positions on a variety of issues. Hence, even though it was a progressive move to pick a non-European Pope, the person picked continues to support the church’s traditional ideologies.

Marcos Alan Ferreira, Head of Department of International Relations, UFPB – Universidade Federal da Paraiba

In Argentina in particular, I think that the possibility of a charismatic pope that is clearly ideologically opposite to Cristina Kirchner administration, can be a challenge to the government. In addition to a middle class and press that is very critic to the government, to have now a pope with the same features will become Kirchner popularity more challenging. Looking on Latin America, I think the choose of Pope Francisco was a very smart choice by the cardinals. First, because he is from Italian background with good relations with Rome and Vatican for long years. Second, he is still a conservative. And third, is a Italian background, conservative, but, a popular cleric where the majority of catholic followers are. While his conservative stance to gay rights, he was known in Argentina as the “cardinal of the poor people”. For a region in which the inequality is very high, this aspect is very important to the Catholics.

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