Economist Alberto Benegas Lynch, 83, walked across the stage dressed in a black suit and tie and stood behind the lectern. From there, the ideological reference of the ultra Javier Milei, his “hero”, as the candidate calls him, began his speech. “What I am going to say next does not compromise Javier Milei’s position,” he warned before suggesting that Argentina should “suspend diplomatic relations with the Vatican while…”. The audience, which was silent, burst out euphorically shouting “Freedom!”, and interrupted him. “…While the totalitarian spirit prevails in the head,” Benegas Lynch concluded.
“Out of consideration for my Catholic religion, out of respect, I think we should imitate what the president did [Julio Argentino] Rock: suspend diplomatic relations with the Vatican while the totalitarian spirit prevails in the head,” said Benegas Lynch, a member of a family with a long conservative and liberal tradition in Argentina, at the closing ceremony of the campaign of the far-right party La Libertad. Keep it up. It was not the first time that he proposed it, as he himself indicated, in reference to a column he published in the digital newspaper Infobae, in which he wrote that “currently” the Church uses “the disguise of traditional values,” but “acts in the opposite direction.”
The Argentine media reported the ultraliberal’s statements against Pope Francis and the church responded. “I was shocked, surprised, at a time when we are trying to ask for a united Argentina,” said the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Ignacio García Cuerva, four days before the presidential elections on October 22. “You must have your own, private religion,” the priest suggested in a radio interview reported by the Télam news agency, and added: “For Catholics, the figure of the Holy Father—beyond whoever it may be, because we are convinced that The Holy Spirit intervenes here—he is our shepherd, our universal reference.”
In a television interview hours later, Milei assured that “it is not in the plans” to break relations with the Vatican and that Benegas Lynch’s statements were “in a personal capacity.” Although Benegas Lynch disassociated Milei from her statements, Pope Francis has received attacks from the candidate on different occasions. The ultra has described the pontiff as an “imbecile”, a “disgusting left-hander” and a “representative of the Evil One on Earth” for promoting, as he said, “communism.” One of the latest attacks was during an interview with American journalist Tucker Carlson, in which he said that the Pope “has an affinity for murderous communists.” “He does not condemn them and he is also quite condescending towards the Venezuelan dictatorship,” he assured.
The first to come out to defend him in the country were the priests of the popular neighborhoods, who in September organized a massive mass before hundreds of faithful. “The entire Church rises to tell the Pope that it loves him,” some twenty priests preached from the stage. In the first presidential debate, on October 1, Peronist Sergio Massa demanded that Milei apologize to the pontiff, “the most important Argentine in history,” as he defended. The La Libertad Avanza candidate responded that his statements had been made when he “was not yet in politics” and assured that he had asked for forgiveness. “If I’m wrong, I have no problem repeating that I am sorry,” he said.
Days before Benegas Lynch’s participation in Milei’s campaign closing ceremony, the Pope gave an interview to the Télam news agency in which he rejected being a “communist” and warned about “the Pied Pipers of Hamelin” because “they are very charming.” “If they were snakes I would leave them, but they are people charmers and end up drowning them. People who believe that they will come out of the crisis dancing to the sound of the flute with redeemers made overnight,” he said without mentioning the ultra candidate, who is approaching the first round of the presidential elections as a favorite in the polls. .
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