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Pope canonises first female Argentine saint before meeting with Milei

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In an unprecedented event at the Vatican on Sunday, Pope Francis elevated Maria Antonia de Paz y Figueroa, popularly known as “Mama Antula,” to sainthood, marking the first female saint from Argentina. The ceremony brought together an unexpected attendee – Argentine President Javier Milei, a former vocal critic of the Pope turned ally.
Before entering politics, Milei had openly criticized Pope Francis, branding him as an “imbecile” and accusing him of preaching communism.However, since assuming office in December, Milei has softened his tone, and the Pope has expressed indifference to the previous insults, emphasizing the importance of actions over campaign rhetoric.
During the canonization Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis celebrated the life of Mama Antula, an 18th-century laywoman who renounced her family’s wealth to dedicate herself to charity and Jesuit spiritual exercises.
The ceremony unfolded against the backdrop of Argentina grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades, with inflation exceeding 200%. President Milei, facing challenges after the rejection of a major reform package by the parliament, attended the service and exchanged words with the Pope afterward. A private audience between the two leaders is scheduled for Monday.
Mama Antula, born into wealth and a slave-owning family, played a crucial role in promoting spiritual exercises, despite the Jesuits being banished from Latin America at the time. In his homily, Pope Francis praised her as a “gift to the Argentine people and the entire Church.”
The Pope’s words took an unexpected turn as he condemned “radical individualism” as a societal “virus,” a sentiment that contrasts with Milei’s radical free-market ideology. The Pope reiterated his commitment to caring for the poor and outcasts, emphasizing the dangers of “fear, prejudice, and false religiosity” leading to the “great injustice” of neglecting the weak.
President Milei, who had a front-row seat at the historic event, is set to have a private audience with Pope Francis on Monday, concluding a week-long overseas tour that included visits to Israel, Italy, and the Vatican. The tour will conclude with meetings with Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

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