meeting of Pope Francis and Javier Milei Photo: Vatican Media

Vatican Chronicles: Pope Francis and His Role in Mexico’s Presidential Elections, Milei the Repentant, and New Dispositions for the Synod on Synodality

Week of February 12-18, 2024

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(ZENIT News / Rome, 02.19.2024).- It was 2020, and Javier Milei was not yet President of Argentina, but he said some unfortunate words against Pope Francis. His sayings became one of the most discussed topics during the political debates on television on the way to the country’s Presidency. Those words have stuck to Milei now that he is the President, and were widely remembered by the press in the context of his visit to the Pope. But one fact is outstanding: it seems that the only one who had forgotten those words was precisely the one who was welcoming the new President: Pope Francis.

The Holy Father began the week with an audience to the President of the country he hails from: Argentina. And the photos and videos of their meeting, both from the previous day during the Mass of Canonization of an Argentine Saint, as well as on Monday morning, February 12 in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, reflect a welcome tuning between them. It’s known that Milei personally apologized for those words of the past, and it’s also known that the Pope excused him wisely. Perhaps with the same wisdom the Pope had when he had to discern how to welcome and manage two campaigning Mexican women, the best positioned candidates for Mexico’s July 2024 Presidency.

On Tuesday, February 13, the Pontiff received Xóchitl Gálvez in private audience. From an interview with Radio Formula we know that she herself requested the audience not many weeks in advance and through a personal contact of hers whose name she did not wish to divulge. And she was told yes. When she learned it would be possible, she organized a meeting with businessmen in Madrid but her ultimate objective was not Spain but the Pope. After a flight from Madrid to Rome, she arrived in a taxi at the Vatican and walked to Casa Santa Marta. She was accompanied by her family and a couple of politicians, including Santiago Creel. She was visiting the Pontiff as a candidate, but also as a Catholic, faith in which she is baptized.

However, it was only the day after that it was learned that Xóchitl passed by the Vatican. The clue was a photo that pictured her in Saint Peter’s Basilica, the place from which she emerged after her audience with the Pope. When we at ZENIT saw the photo, we did some research among acquaintances inside Casa Santa Marta, who confirmed that she had been there (we also learned where she stayed, but that exceeds the chronicle). Why then did Xóchitl say nothing until Thursday, February 15? She herself answered: because the Pope’s team asked her not to publish her visit until the 15th. And now, we also know why.

On Thursday morning, February 15, another pre-candidate, Claudia Sheinbaum, had her own audience with the Pope. She also did not obtain it through the Mexican Episcopate, or the Apostolic Nunciature in Mexico or the Mexican Embassy to the Holy See. Sheinbaum revealed how she got the audience, giving the names of her mediators: the President of the World Boxing Council, Mauricio Sulaimán, and the Pope’s goldsmith (or at least that’s how he introduces himself), Adrian Pallarols.

One’s attention is certainly drawn by the fact that, in the same week, the two candidates visited. Who told one that the other would be there and/or which one was the first to request the audience in such a way that the other would have the time to organize her agenda, cross the ocean and arrive in Rome? Even more striking is the fact that, in the context of the elections, both wanted a papal audience. It’s something that never happened in the past, past in which the “secular character of the State” was brandished.

Commentators have pointed out the influence that Pope Francis could have on the elections of a country where 7.7 out of every 10 Mexicans say they are Catholic. Or even non-Catholics, not a few, that are sympathetic with his views on topics such as ecology, social justice or migration. Sheinbaum fits this mould, who is Jewish but says she’s not religious (although at times she uses clothes with prints of the Virgin of Guadalupe). Xóchitl Gálvez is at the opposite pole, who describes herself as openly Catholic, although to avoid offending susceptibilities, a few days after meeting with the Pope, she went to a meeting with Evangelical leaders, by whom she allowed herself to be blessed.

Between Xóchitl Gálvez and Claudia Sheinbaum the Pontiff had a penitential day, and it’s not a joke. We are referring to Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the liturgical period of Lent. The Holy Father followed the tradition of the celebration of the ceremony of imposition of ashes in the Basilica of Saint Sabina on the Aventine Hill, surrounded by Benedictine monks and Dominican friars. Also made known, between the two women from which the future President of Mexico will emerge, was a third trip of the Pope inside Italy: after Verona and Trieste, the third citywill be Venice. And he ended the week with dispositions about the Synod on Synodality, approving the exact dates for the second part of that Synod (from Wednesday, October 2 to Sunday, October 27, 2024) and establishing study groups between Dicasteries and the Synod’s Secretariat around topics that arose in the first part of the Synod on Synodality. What topics? The Pope’s chirograph doesn’t reveal it but a document does of December 2023 of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops that, although not referred to, it’s worthwhile recalling:

“The preliminary study in view of the updating of the CIC and of the CCEO (Synthesis Report, chapter 1 letter r), of the Ratio Fundamentalis on the formation of ordained ministers (chapter 11 letter j) of the document Mutuae Relationes (chapter 10 letter g; or the reflection on theological and pastoral research on the diaconate and, more specifically, on women’s access to the diaconate (chapter 9 letter n).”

In more accessible and less technical language, it’s a preliminary study to:

1)      Update  the Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Catholic Churches;
2)      Update the document that grounds and guides the formation of priests;
3)      Update the document that regulates and inspires the relationship between the Religious Orders and Congregations and the Bishops;
4)      And the feminine diaconate.

Of the above four topics, the fourth was the only one addressed by the Pontiff and his Council of Cardinals in early February 2024 in the Vatican. It can be understood that it is the most advanced of all given that it was addressed where it was already treated.


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Jorge Enrique Mújica

Licenciado en filosofía por el Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum, de Roma, y “veterano” colaborador de medios impresos y digitales sobre argumentos religiosos y de comunicación. En la cuenta de Twitter:, habla de Dios e internet y Church and media: evangelidigitalización."

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