A community Mass to "make amends" to Pope Francis, the target of recent criticism from libertarian presidential candidate Javier Milei, was staged in the capital on Tuesday by priests from slums and poor neighbourhoods.
The Mass "to atone for the outrages against Pope Francis in the political campaign" in Argentina in the run-up to the general elections on October 22 was held in front of the Virgen de los Milagros de Caacupé parish church, located in the Villa 21-24 shantytown in the south of the capital, in front of thousands of people.
Government ministers including Gabriel Katopodis (Public Works), Jorge Taiana (Defence) and Jaime Perczyk (Education) and Kelly Olmos (Labour) were among those present.
Also in attendance were figures such as former foreign minister and Buenos Aires Province governor Felipe Solá; national deputies Eduardo Valdés and Victoria Morales Gorleri; the leader of the Movimiento Evita, Esteban ‘El Gringo’ Castro; representatives of the Madres de Playa de Mayo and the Familia Grande Hogar de Cristo, among others.
Since announcing his run for the Presidency, national deputy Milei has been more and more critical of the leader of the Catholic Church, often insulting the Argentine pontiff both on social networks and in interviews.
On several occasions he has referred to Francis as "the evil one on Earth who occupies the throne of the house of God" and accused him of "promoting Communism." He has also called the man formerly known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio "nefarious" and an "imbecile.”
However, since emerging as the most voted-for candidate in Argentina’s PASO primaries on August 13, Milei has moderated his tone a little. The La Libertad Avanza leader has said, if elected, he will give the pontiff a reception “befitting a head of state” should he visit the country because he is “the spiritual leader of the great majority of Argentines.”
"This Mass is to reject insults and in support of Pope Francis," declared José Di Paola, José María Di Paola, the priest better known as 'Padre Pepe,' who worked closely with Bergoglio when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires prior to 2013.
"The pope is for us the one who guides and who reaches with his word the hearts of people who are not of our religion and in this time he has received grievances," Di Paola said in his homily.
"It is unworthy of a candidate to say 'the shit of social justice' when part of the Gospel, of the social doctrine of the Church, is love thy neighbour," said the priest.
Milei has defined social justice as "the greatest aberration" in politics.
"This preaching goes against the faith of Pope Francis, who is the person he is attacking, but ultimately the attack goes against our faith and humanism," said Di Paola.
The religious leader considers that Milei’s victory in the primaries is the product of an "angry vote" from an electorate suffering from economic instability and runaway inflation exceeding 113 percent a year.
"It is good that it is understood that it is for the entire ruling class, so that they put on their desks the agenda of the working-class neighbourhoods: security, work and better education," said Di Paola.
"One ends up wondering if someone with such an emotional disorder can withstand the tensions inherent in the public office to which he aspires," the priests said after the celebration in a statement.
They also expressed the need to "build peace, dialogue and inclusion" and called for government policy “that seeks the common good, with the human person at its centre.”
"We believe that deifying the market leads to dehumanisation by forgetting the weakest," they asserted in new criticism of Milei, adding: "If you only awaken lions, it is logical that they eat the most defenceless lambs.”
Despite the claims, the priests said they would be happy to meet with Milei.