Pope Francis met with the president of his native Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, this Sunday afternoon, marking their fifth encounter since the Pope’s election.
According to a statement released by Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, the Pope and President met in a studio of the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall and spent more than 90 minutes together. During the meeting, the Vatican spokesman noted, President Fernández de Kirchner expressed the affection felt for the Pope by the people of Argentina, and asked for the Pope’s blessings on his countrymen.
Pope Francis gave the president a reproduction of a Russian icon of the 11th century, depicting the “Virgin of Tenderness,” while the President of Argentina brought several gifts for Pope Francis, Father Lombardi said. They included “a portrait of Blessed Oscar Romero by Argentine artist Eugenio Cuttica; a book by Alberto Methol-Ferré, a favorite author of Pope Francis (“Los Continentales estados y el Mercosur”); an edition of the national poem “Martin Fierro,” which the Pope has cited; two bas-reliefs for the blind, with their titles written in Braille, which represent the Virgin of Lujan, and a portrait of the Pope; a basket with typical Argentine food and an important volume on the architectural heritage of Argentina published for the nation’s bicentennial.”
Following the Pope’s meeting with the president, the Pope met with the Argentine delegation accompanying the president during her visit to Italy. The president is expected to attend the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Conference and meet Italian officials in Rome prior to traveling to Milan for the Expo.
Of Argentina’s population of some 43 million people, Roman Catholics make up 92% (but some reports say less than 20% are practicing); Protestant, 2%; Jewish, 2%; and other, 4%.