Several British government officials urged the newly elected Argentine-born Pope Francis to refrain from making any political statements regarding the disputed Falklands Islands.
"The Holy See is clear that it considers the question of the Falkland Islands as a bilateral one between sovereign nations, and that it does not have a role to play. We do not expect that position to change," the Foreign Office said in a statement issued on Monday.
The communiqué came hours after the pontiff met and had lunch with Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on Monday. After they talked, Fernández said at a press conference that she “asked him to intercede in opening a dialogue between the U.K. and Argentina”.
Baroness Warsi, the Brtish Faith and Communities Minister, claimed that Francis will be neutral concerning the diplomatic tug-of-war between her country and Argentina over the archipelago.
“The Holy See have always taken the view that this is a bilateral matter. I don’t anticipate that that will change, said the minister who attended this morning’s inauguration Mass.
British Prime Minister David Cameron criticized the pontiff’s remarks less than two days after Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the new Pope.
“The white smoke over the Falklands was pretty clear,” said Cameron. He also mentioned that the results of a recent non-binding referendum held on the disputed islands “is a message to everyone in the world that the people of these islands have chosen very clearly the future they want and that choice should be respected by everyone.”
Warsi denied rumors that Cameron “snubbed” the Pope by skipping out on the inauguration Mass and noted how when “Benedict was inaugurated eight years ago, neither the prime minister or deputy prime minister attended.” Fernández, meanwhile, attended the Mass and was among the dozens of foreign dignitaries who subsequently greeted Francis at St. Peter’s Basilica.
Last week several British press reports republished comments made by the pontiff at an event commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of the Falklands War.
“We come to pray for those who have fallen, sons of the homeland who set out to defend his mother, the homeland, to claim the country that is theirs and they were usurped,” said the then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires at the 2012 mass.
Thus far there has been no public declaration made by Francis over the islands that are located over 300 miles off the Argentine coast and have been under British control since 1833.
What do Falklands residents think of Pope Francis? The parish priest in Port Stanley reportedly said days ago that he hoped the new pope will visit the islands:
Parish priest Michael Bernard McPartland, 73, told the newspaper Folha de São Paulo: "If the Pope goes to Argentina, he should come here too.
"It is wonderful that a Latin American has been chosen. There is no hostility here, only a lot of hope.
"We are very happy, it is great having a new pope. In a few months it will not matter where he's from. A pope is a pope, he is universal.
"A Latin American pope can do a lot to make our activities grow in the region, at least that's what I hope."Pope Francis’ travel plans will include a visit to Brazil in a few months where he will attend the World Youth Day festivities.
Video Source– YouTube via euronews
Online Sources – USA TODAY, The Latin Americanist, Independent.co.uk, Bloomberg, The Guardian, The Telegraph, La Nacion