After a rocky start, the Pope and Argentina's Miley meet amid speculation that Francis may finally return to his homeland

ROME (AFP) – Despite their difficult start, Argentine President Javier Miley Pope Francis appeared to have succeeded when they held their first meeting on Monday amid speculation that the Argentine pope may finally return to his country for a visit later this year.

The Vatican said the two men met for an hour and 10 minutes, an unusually long audience by Francis' standards, especially given that no translation was needed. Video from the Vatican showed a smiling Francis briefly holding Miley's arm for support as they walked to his office at the start of their meeting.

Miley, who once described the Pope as a “moron”, gave Francis some of his favorite Argentinian dulce de leche alfajores and lemon biscuits. Francis presented him with his papal documents and a medal.

“One of the things I understood, among other things, is that the Pope is Argentine and he is the most important person in the country,” Miley said in an interview broadcast on the Italian channel Reticuatro on Monday.

The warm tone had already been set the day before, when Miley hugged Frances With a bear hug at the end of the Mass to declare the first female saint in Argentina. The Pope said sarcastically: “You cut your hair!”

Miley's office posted photos of the hug on X and wrote: “May God bless Argentines and may the forces of heaven accompany us.”

It wasn't always like this. Miley, a self-proclaimed libertarian and anarcho-capitalist He promised a wave of austerity measures To revive Argentina's economy, he called Francis an “idiot” during the election campaign that brought him to office. He described Francis as “a representative of malignancy on earth.”

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Francis, who also expressed regret over Argentina's long economic crisis, appeared to have forgiven him and dismissed the criticism as mere campaign rhetoric.

Miley said the same thing in his interview with Retequattro. Describing himself as a Catholic who also practices Judaism, he said he now understood that Francis was the leader of the world's Catholics and represented an important institution in a largely Catholic country like Argentina.

“As a result, I had to reconsider some positions, and from that moment on, we began to build a positive relationship,” Miley was quoted as saying, according to excerpts from the interview.

Last month, the 87-year-old pope reiterated his hope of visiting Argentina later this year for the first time since his election in 2013. He has been away from his home country for a decade, although he has visited neighboring countries such as Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Chile during his papacy. This caused confusion among Argentines and others alike.

Miley invited Francis to visit, and the country's bishops similarly pressed for his eventual return to his homeland.

“As for the pope, he is invited, he is Argentine and he will definitely come but I don’t know when,” Argentine Foreign Minister Diana Mondino told reporters when asked by reporters at the Italian Foreign Ministry.

The Vatican did not mention the potential visit in a statement issued after the Francis-Mili meeting. The statement, which focused only on Miley's subsequent meeting with the Vatican's foreign minister, said those talks covered the government's “program to confront the economic crisis” as well as unspecified international conflicts.

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Later on Monday, Miley met with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni And President Sergio Mattarella. Meloni wrote on X, previously Twitter, that they discussed strengthening economic relations in the areas of energy, infrastructure and agro-food industries.

Miley had reason to be happy about her entrance into the audience. During the night, Israeli forces freed two hostages of Argentine nationality who had been kidnapped by Hamas on October 7. Miley arrived in Rome last Friday after a visit to Israel, where he spent some time with the Argentine community.

In a message on X, his office thanked the Israeli forces for the rescue operation.

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Paolo Santalucia contributed.

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