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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - President Alberto Fernández has phoned Pope Francis to thank him for saving Argentina from its ninth bankruptcy, after the pontiff urged international creditors to cancel a debt of 56 billion euros ($66 billion).
Without the pope's intervention, the European Union's support for Argentina would not have been so strong at the time of opening the negotiation with the investment funds, Infobae stressed.
Shortly after the agreement was reached, Fernández phoned from the presidential residence in Olivos, Buenos Aires, to the papal apartments in the Vatican, speaking to his friend for about 15 minutes.
The president communicates with the pontiff by personal email or by a direct line to Santa Marta. Fernández and Francis are friends, and they share a vision of capitalism and its influence on economic inequality around the world, the Argentinian media giant noted.
"It is no surprise that Pope Francis is helping to bail out Fernández, given that he worked hard to get him elected," eminent Vatican correspondent George Neumayr told Church Militant.
"Ideologically, they are two peas in a pod. It was Francis who played a role in bringing Fernández together with vice president Cristina de Kirchner against former president Mauricio Macri, whom Francis disliked for his pro-business stances," said Neumayr, author of bestselling The Political Pope: How Pope Francis Is Delighting the Liberal Left and Abandoning Conservatives.
Francis played a critical mediating role by brokering contacts between International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Kristalina Georgieva and Argentina's finance minister Martín Guzmán.
The pontiff also campaigned for Argentina in "every conversation with heads of state" and asked them to cooperate in negotiations with the creditors.
Francis spoke very highly of Fernández and Guzmán to Georgieva, the IMF head, going beyond his spiritual role to act as guarantor for the president and finance minister.
"In each dialogue with heads of state, the pope advocated for Argentina and requested institutional collaboration in the middle of negotiations with the bondholders, who were lobbying in Washington to soften the president and his finance minister," Infobae revealed.
Shortly after he won the election in December 2019, the president pleaded with Francis for help. "This exchange of views was key in drawing up the negotiating strategy with Argentina's Wall Street bondholders."
In February, Pope Francis hosted a conference at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, bringing together IMF head Georgieva and finance minister Guzmán.
On the Friday before the conference, Francis welcomed Fernández to the Vatican, promising to do everything he could to help with the current crisis.
At a press conference, Fernández said he hadn't discussed abortion with Francis, contradicting a Vatican statement that said "during the cordial discussions," the two discussed among other problems "the protection of life from conception.
Guzmán categorically told the conference his country would not continue servicing debt that was unsustainable and pushed the country deeper into recession.
According to Reuters, Georgieva and Guzmán held two and a half hours of "constructive talks" on Argentina's debt crisis on Tuesday night ahead of the conference.
While not specifically naming the Argentinian crisis, Pope Francis called for "new forms of solidarity" to help indebted countries.
"We are not doomed to universal inequality," Francis said. "Poor people in heavily indebted countries bear overwhelming tax burdens and cuts in social services as their governments pay debts contracted insensitively and unsustainably."
In March, Fernández said he would send a bill to the Argentine Congress to begin the process of legalizing abortion. The president has described abortion as "a matter of public health." Argentina permits abortion only in cases of rape, or if the mother's health is endangered.
That has not diminished Francis' support for the president, according to Infobae.
"Alberto Fernández and Pope Francis have a relationship that goes beyond their differences over abortion," the media portal commented. "Each one plays their game, and they will always try to avoid confrontations in public."
The president and the pope "know that there will be a time of formal distancing" but nevertheless can communicate quietly by "an email that will depart at night from Santa Marta or Olivos," Infobae remarked.
"They are experts in the management of power," and an "ideological combat" over abortion "will not open an insurmountable ditch between them," the site stated.
The Macri government borrowed 56 billion euros in external debt between January 2016 and June 2018.
On May 22, 2020, the government missed a $503 million interest payment on dollar bonds issued under New York law, putting the government into its ninth default.
Pope Francis is likely to visit Argentina in 2022.