The Holy See has commented on a disputed photo of Pope Francis holding a sign calling for dialogue between Argentina and Great Britain over the Falkland Islands.
During the General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis was greeted by a group from Argentina who gave him a sign that read: “It is time for dialogue between Argentina and the United Kingdom about the Falkland Islands.”
Great Britain has exercised sovereignty over the Islands since 1883. However, Argentina has made claims to the Falkland Islands. The dispute between the two countries culminated in 1982 when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. Great Britain fought back and forced Argentina to surrender 74 days later. Although both countries restored diplomatic ties in 1989, neither one has changed their position on their respective claims to the islands.
Regarding the photo, Fr. Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Holy See Press Office, stated that the photo “was made in the context of the General Audience on Wednesday, August 19th, in which many faithful give the Pope various objects, usually to take photographs.”
“There has been no change of position on this issue. The Pope does not want to enter into this debate,” he said
“Holding something does not mean that he is taking a position either way.”
The Argentinian government continue to call for a dialogue with Great Britain, despite the fact that residents of the island wish to remain under British sovereignty. The photograph has been seen as one of several attempts to use the Holy Father’s influence to advance a political cause.
The sign was given to the Pope by Gustavo Hoyo, coordinator of a group campaigning for a dialogue between the two countries regarding the islands. The group bases their campaign on a 1965 UN Resolution that invited “the governments of Argentina and Great Britain to proceed … with a view to finding a peaceful solution to the problem.”
On Thursday, Fr. Thomas Rosica, English-language assistant to the Vatican press office, made this clarification about the issue:
“At each General Audience in St. Peter’s Square or as was the case yesterday, in the Paul VI audience hall, hundreds of people line the aisles to shake the Pope’s hands or be photographed with him. Many individuals reach out to touch him, request that religious objects be blessed, or present the Pope with family photos, gifts, etc. At yesterday’s audience a small poster was handed to the Pope and he had no idea what the item was. A photo was taken and sent out on Social Media by many people, including Argentine government authorities. The Holy Father was totally unaware of what the small poster contained. In a statement from the Holy See Press Office Wednesday evening: ‘The Holy Father did not even realize he had this object in his hands. He has discovered this just now after seeing the photograph.'”