Just two days after the Vatican meeting between President Alberto Fernández and Pope Francis at the end of the month was confirmed, the government on Thursday admitted to having cold feet about nominating Luis Bellando as future envoy to the Holy See – a divorcee reportedly resisted by the Church.
“We’ll see if another man or woman is needed. These are Foreign Ministry administrative proceedings which take their time and we have no information,” Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero told members ofthe press.
Foreign Ministry spokespersons then confirmed that Bellando’s credentials, which had been sent to the Papal Nuncio here, had now been withdrawn.
No new name was immediately offered, according to Noticias Argentinas, with other reports suggesting the government are waiting to see the Argentine-born pontiff’s opinion at the end of the month.
Although first appearances point to Church aversion towards a divorced diplomat in Rome (which Argentina has already experienced when Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s Justice Minister Alberto Iribarne was rejected for that reason in 2008), the issue may not be so simple.
Bellando is indeed divorced but his first wedding was in a registry office and thus not recognised by the Church, whereas his remarriage including a Catholic religious ceremony remains undissolved.
Political factors are also believed to be at work too. Some reports on Thursday suggested Bellando is a career diplomat (with prior postings in Brazil and Angola) who belongs to the old boy network of the professional diplomatic corps, a generally conservative group which does not ideologically match the Frente de Todos government.
His main advocate within the government had reportedly been Strategic Affairs Secretary Gustavo Beliz, who will be among the half dozen persons accompanying President Fernández in Rome at the end of the month.
The meeting – the first between the two since Fernández assumed the presidency – will take place on Friday, January 31 at 11am local time (around 7am in Argentina).
According to the Vatican, the meeting will begin with a welcome in the so-called Tronetto room of the Vatican before a private one-on-one meeting in the Pope's private library and a brief exchange of gifts.
The Peronist leader previously travelled to the Holy See in August 2018 to meet the Argentine pontiff. Pope Francis also met with Fernández's partner, Fabiola Yáñez, days after the Peronist's inauguration.
"Francisco knows how much I value, I love and appreciate him," Fernaández said on Monday during an interview with C5N.