July 29, 2014
Pope’s message is authentic
What looked like the making of a brewing diplomatic spat between the Vatican and President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s government was quickly put to rest yesterday after Pope Francis contradicted comments from one of his closest advisers, who had cast doubt on the authenticity of a message from the pope.
Pope Francis called the Argentine Ambassador to the Holy See Juan Pablo Cafiero early in the morning to tell him that the note “expressing good wishes” to Fernández de Kirchner — and all Argentines — for the May 25 holiday was authentic after all.
The pontiff appeared eager to bring to an end a confusing series of events in which the government first touted the letter Thursday before a close ally to the pope dismissed it as a fake and high-level government officials gave a late-night press conference on the issue.
The one who sparked the whole spat, and the series of mysteries and back-and-forths, was Father Guillermo Karcher, an Argentine priest close to the pope, who is currently posted in Rome. Karcher called the letter a fake on Thursday evening, prompting before high-level government officials to hold a press conference informing that the letter had been received through the normal diplomatic channels and that they had no reason to doubt its authenticity.
Before being declared as a fake by Father Karcher, the government had widely distributed a copy of the letter in which the Pope sent his “warm greetings” and desires for “united path of solidarity and justice” in Argentina.
The government’s distribution of the letter was significant within the context of a recent low-intensity exchange of words between the Catholic Church and the government over a Church report that claimed Argentina was “sick with violence.” Later comments by both Church and government representatives scaled back the tone of the spat with thinly-veiled criticisms over the media’s coverage of the report.
The criticism of the media was also present yesterday.
Ambassador Cafiero wrote to President Fernández de Kirchner that Pope Francis “has expressed his annoyance with some media outlets that sought to make a mountain out of a molehill to generate conflict, without taking the trouble to properly inform society.”
Blame for all
Fernández de Kirchner yesterday published on Twitter and Facebook the letter from Ambassador Cafiero in which he described the phone call with Pope Francis.
The fact that the pope has recognized the authenticity of the letter does not explain spelling errors nor the fact that it was dated May 15, despite the fact that the letter was received on Wednesday by the Argentine presidency.
Nonetheless, statements yesterday by Pope Francis, the Apostolic Nuncio to Buenos Aires Emil Paul Tscherrig, and the very same representative that first cast doubt on the letter, Father Guillermo Karcher, brought to close an affair as the officials tried to explain the whole thing away with one word: “confusion.”
Karcher seemed to dance around his comments that launched a thousand headlines Thursday by saying the pope did not in fact send a letter, but rather a telegram.
“It has to be absolutely clarified; everything is official but it is not a letter — it’s a telegram,” Father Karcher said yesterday morning.
“I correct my statements”, he said. “It is an official telegram, a legitimate one, that comes ahead of the May 25 national holiday,” he added alluding to the 204th anniversary of the May Revolution that marked the beginning of Argentina’s independence from the Spanish crown.
Karcher had called the distribution of what he considered a fake letter from the pope on Thursday as “an act of bad faith”, calling it “unbelievable” and that it was unfortunate that the pontiff’s name had been used in such a way. In conversation with radio station del Plata yesterday morning, Karcher backtracked heavily and recognized that such a characterization had been excessive and that the contents of the letter were consistent with the pope’s feelings and wishes.
Father Jorge Lozano, Bishop of Gualeguaychú added that “he had no idea where Guillermo Karcher got the information that the letter was a fake and why he doubted or who he consulted.”
Karcher had told cable news channel C5N that he had discussed the matter with the pope himself.
Lozano added that “I had a look at the letter that the pope sent last year to the president and the Argentine people and it has a similar tone. Having seen it... I had no suspicions that it wasn’t real” while also adding that it was true that the new letter was more informal.
For his part, Tscherrig appeared to assign responsibility for the back-and-forth on Karcher, saying that the kerfuffle “was part of a confusion that did not come from this house, this nunciature.” He added that he was unable to explain the cause of the confusion. He did add that the letter “was a normal letter, a normal message between two governments” and that he hoped that the May 25 festivities “brings people together and that they pray for peace.”
Government ends talk
Presidential Chief-of-Staff Oscar Parrilli yesterday announced that given the new clarifications, “the government has nothing else to add on this matter.”
Religious Affairs Secretary Guillermo Oliveri echoed the sentiment, telling Radio Vorterix that “at this point there is no need to add any confusion. Our attitude has been clear.”
Parrilli and Oliveri led an improptu news conference on Thursday in which they clarified that they “had no reason to doubt the veracity” of the letter given that it had arrived through the normal channels. At the time of the news conference, the letter was still believed to be a fake and the Nuncio was not available for comment.
Herald staff with DyN, Télam