Today signals the first day of Pope Francis’ reign as the new leader of the Catholic Church, and already the pontiff is faced with a challenge. As Argentines and Catholics across the globe celebrate the election of the first ever Latin American pope, comments made by the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio regarding the Falkland Islands dispute have emerged.
Last April, at a memorial mass in Buenos Aires marking the 30th anniversary of the 1982 Falkland Islands conflict, Cardinal Bergoglio told his followers that they had come together to “pray for those who have fallen, the sons of our homeland who went out to defend their mother country, to reclaim what is theirs of the homeland, that which was usurped from them.” He also spoke of the many young Argentines who never returned from the war, while others “came back but were never able to forget,” writes AciPrensa. Whether or not they fought in the battleground, these young people were scared for life, the Cardinal said. Three years earlier, Cardinal Bergoglio told families of Argentine soldiers killed in the conflict to “go and kiss this land which is ours, and seem to us far away,” notes the Independent.
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His words echo those of Cristina Fernández Kirchner, President of Argentina, who in January sent an open letter to the British Prime Minister David Cameron calling on him to honor a United Nations resolution that dates back to 1960 and “end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations,” writes the Guardian. She wrote in the letter that the “Malvinas” (as the islands are known in Argentina) are 8,600 miles away from London and claimed that the Royal Navy had expelled Argentines living on the islands and replaced them with British settlers, a move that, she says, was a “blatant exercise in nineteenth-century colonialism.”
Meanwhile, the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands have expressed surprise at the election of Pope Francis. Monsignor Michael McPartland from St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Stanley admitted this morning that he had never actually heard of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio until his election as pope was announced on Wednesday, writes the Independent. “I have to say I know nothing of him – I had never heard of him until 24 hours ago. But he is going to create some very interesting reactions,” said Monsignor McPartland.
Senior figures from the Falklands have said the pope is welcome to visit the islands so that he can understand the views of its inhabitants. Dick Sawle, an elected legislator from the islands, told the Independent, “In the political sense, the new pope is wrong in what he said. I would hope that as leader of the Catholic Church he would recognize that Christ died so that all men could be equal and accept our rights as individuals here in the Falklands Islands.”
On Sunday, an overwhelming 99.8 percent of Falkland Islands inhabitants voted in favor of remaining an overseas U.K. territory. Just 3 islanders voted “no” to the following question: “Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom?”