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Cristina Kirchner to meet Pope Francis

President Cristina Kirchner and her secretaries arrive in Rome yesterday.

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner left for Rome a day earlier than originally planned in order to meet with Pope Francis today, arriving yesterday at 4pm local time and making her way directly to a hotel in the Italian capital. Her meeting with the new pontiff will take place in the Vatican City at 12:50pm (8:50am Argentine time,) with the confirmed presence of Argentine Ambassador to the Vatican Juan Pablo Cafiero and Papal Nuncio in Argentina Emil Paul Tscherrig.

The President arrived at Ciampino military airport in a rented airplane, as the presidential aircraft Tango 01 was not used for fear that it could be embargoed by so-labelled “vulture funds.”

Fernández de Kirchner’s official spokesperson, Alfredo Scoccimarro, revealed that the head of state had originally planned to depart today but that the trip had been brought forward a day to accommodate the meeting, a day before his papal coronation, while the President refused to attend to the press upon her arrival.

The Vatican’s Press Office confirmed that the President will thus become the first head of state to hold a private audience with the Pope, and that the meeting will take place at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the building adjacent to Saint Peter’s Basilica, where Pope Francis will reside until he moves into the Apostolic Palace after his enthronement. However, the agenda of issues to be discussed at the meeting was not revealed.

The President, who is accompanied by an official delegation of 12 members, will also attend tomorrow’s ceremony along with approximately 150 other heads of state, after which she will return to Buenos Aires. Argentina was provided with extra places for its delegation because it is the country of the pope’s origins, as other countries’ leaders will be accompanied by a maximum of four officials.

Fernández de Kirchner’s delegation includes Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricardo Lorenzetti, Lower House Speaker Julián Domínguez and Radical (UCR) Deputy Ricardo Alfonsín, the latter of whom departed separately on Friday with his wife. Timerman arrived on Saturday and welcomed the President at the airport with Argentine Ambassadors to Italy Torcuato di Tella and to the Vatican Juan Pablo Cafiero.

Also included in the delegation are Argentine Synod head José María Arancedo, Bishop Carlos Alberto Acaputo, who heads the Church’s social-pastoral work team, pro-government CGT umbrella union grouping leader Antonio Caló, taxi-drivers’ union leader Omar Viviani and longshoremen’s union head Omar Suárez.

The delegation was later expanded, with the inclusion of Public Communications Secretary Scoccimarro, Argentine Industrial Union (UIA) President José Ignacio de Mendi-guren and Argentine Municipalities Federation head Julio Pereyra (the mayor of Florencio Varela).

Herald with Telam, DyN

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