Pope prays for social harmony and respect for democratic values for his home country.
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In the aftermath of a failed attempt on the life of Cristina Kirchner, vice-president of Argentina, Pope Francis expressed solidarity and “closeness in this delicate moment” in a telegram issued on September 2, 2022. The day before, the 69-year-old politician, who was president of Argentina from 2007 to 2015, was shot at point-blank range by a gunman in a Buenos Aires street, but the gun jammed and no one was hurt in the attempted attack.
In a short message in Spanish, the Pope said he prayed “that social harmony and respect for democratic values may always prevail in dear Argentina, against all types of violence and aggression.”
The assassination attempt, committed by a Brazilian national immediately arrested and whose motives are unknown, occurred on the 11th day of the trial of Cristina Kirchner for corruption, and in a climate of political, economic, and social crisis.
“Cristina is alive because, for a reason that has not yet been technically confirmed, the gun that contained five bullets did not fire, although it was triggered,” said Argentine President Alberto Fernandez in an address, hours after the event.
Causing incomprehension among many mayors and the opposition, the head of state decreed an exceptional holiday throughout the country, which corresponds to a form of curfew, limiting the opening of shops and the organization of sports competitions.
Cristina Kirchner succeeded her husband Nestor Kirchner as president of Argentina in 2007, and was re-elected in 2011. Her relations with the future Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, then Archbishop of Buenos Aires, were initially cold and distant, but they improved on the occasion of the death and religious funeral of Nestor Kirchner in 2010, celebrated in the cathedral of the Argentine capital.
In the same year, however, the legalization of same-sex marriage caused great tension between the Church and the left-wing Peronist government. Cardinal Bergoglio’s opposition brought him international attention in the Catholic press.
After his election as Pope Francis, relations with the president of his home country took a warm turn, causing some surprise in their respective entourages. While the Pope has never returned to Argentina, the two leaders have met several times in Rome but also in Brazil, on the sidelines of World Youth Day in Rio in 2013, and in Paraguay in 2015.
After leaving office in 2015, Cristina Kirchner returned to the spotlight in 2019, becoming the vice president of the current head of state, Alberto Fernandez. The highly polarized political debate and attempts by various factions to exploit Pope Francis’ popularity seem to have, for the moment, dissuaded the Pontiff from organizing an apostolic trip to his home country.