Pope Francis Extends Olive Branch to Political Opponent as Argentina Celebrates Canonization of St. María Antonia

Pope Francis Extends Olive Branch to Political Opponent as Argentina Celebrates Canonization of St. María Antonia

In a surprising turn of events, Pope Francis has expressed his willingness to engage in dialogue with his political adversary, Javier Gerardo Milei, viewing their upcoming meeting as an opportunity to initiate a conversation.

Despite previous insults hurled at the Pope by Milei before his presidential election, Pope Francis downplayed the remarks, stating that election campaign rhetoric tends to be transient.

Milei’s Religious Evolution and Visit to Rome

Javier Gerardo Milei, who was raised in the Catholic faith, has undergone a recent transformation, embracing aspects of Judaism and even contemplating the possibility of conversion.

His visit to Rome from Israel included a stop at the Basilica of Saint Peter in Chains, where he shared a photo on Instagram, capturing his contemplation of Michelangelo’s statue of Moses within the sacred space.

President Milei’s Formal Invitation to Pope Francis

President Milei, assuming office in December, extended a formal invitation for Pope Francis to visit Argentina in a letter dated January 8.

Despite their political differences, this unexpected meeting signifies a potential thaw in relations and a commitment to open communication.

Canonization Mass Highlights Message of Compassion

In the midst of these political developments, Pope Francis presided over the canonization Mass of St. María Antonia of St. Joseph on February 11, 2024.

During his homily, the pontiff emphasized the importance of not marginalizing the poor or vulnerable but, instead, reaching out to them, drawing parallels to Jesus’ interactions with lepers.

Saint María Antonia’s Exemplary Life and Ministry

María Antonia, born into wealth in 1730 in Santiago del Estero, northern Argentina, demonstrated an early desire to serve God.

Her ministry involved aiding parents in educating their children and providing care to the sick and impoverished.

Following the expulsion of the Jesuits, María Antonia embarked on foot throughout northern Argentina, safeguarding and promoting Ignatian spirituality.

Mama Antula’s Perseverance and Legacy

Facing hostility, she organized retreats and expanded her mission, relocating to Buenos Aires in 1779.

Despite initial opposition, she gained the trust of the local bishop, leading to the establishment of the House for Spiritual Exercises in Buenos Aires.

María Antonia passed away in 1799 and was initially buried in the Church of the Pietà cemetery. Her body later became a pilgrimage destination after being moved inside the church.

Pope Francis’ Gratitude and Call to Prayer

In his homily, Pope Francis expressed gratitude to Mama Antula for promoting devotion to St. Cajetan, a popular saint in Argentina.

He acknowledged her role in bringing dignity through work, justice, and sustenance to the poor.

Pope Francis concluded by urging prayers to Saint María Antonia de Paz de San José, seeking her intercession in the challenges faced by the world today.

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