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Pope Francis is unlikely to make any statements on the Falkland Islands in future

As Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict XVI made his views on foreign policy explicit, but he never reiterated them as pope

By on Friday, 15 March 2013

Cristina Kirchner greets Cardinal Bergoglio in 2008 (Photo: CNS)

Cristina Kirchner greets Cardinal Bergoglio in 2008 (Photo: CNS)

David Cameron has responded somewhat cheekily to Pope Francis today, after it was revealed that the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires is on record for having said the Falkland Islands belong to Argentina.

Asked at a press conference in Brussels about the then Cardinal Bergoglio’s remarks, the Prime Minister said he should “respect” the islanders’ referendum vote. He added, tongue in cheek: “The white smoke over the Falklands was pretty clear.”

Mr Cameron said: “I don’t agree with him – respectfully, obviously.

“There was a pretty extraordinarily clear referendum in the Falkland Islands and I think that is a message to everyone in the world that the people of these islands have chosen very clearly the future they want and that choice should be respected by everyone.”

Last year, at a Mass at Buenos Aires for the 30th anniversary of the 1982 Falklands War, the future Pope told worshippers: “We come to pray for all who have fallen, sons of the homeland who went out to defend their mother, the homeland, and to reclaim what is theirs, that is of the homeland, and it was usurped.”

Argentine president Cristina Kirchner is reported to have already tried to recruit Pope Francis in her efforts to take control of the Falkland Islands and renew international pressure for talks.

But the Pope is highly unlikely to intervene in the dispute. Like Benedict XVI, he will try to stay away from engaging directly in the politics of his homeland, including its foreign affairs.

As Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict had made some of his views on foreign policy explicit, such as opposing Turkey’s entry into the European Union. But he never reiterated them as Pope, and even appeared to change his mind on the issue.

Pope Francis may choose to exert some influence through diplomatic channels, but any public support will probably not be forthcoming, especially given the recent referendum showing the overwhelming desire of the islanders to remain a British overseas territory.

  • Liam Ronan

    What white smoke have you seen wafting heavenward following your moral and political pronouncements, Mr. Cameron?

  • Massimiliano

    The white smoke joke is disrespectful. I’m sure Cameron would never do a similar joke about a islamic or jewish tradition.

  • patrickhowes

    Let Him pseak about what he wants.We might have the humility and see things from a different angle

  • Siobhan Mckinney

    we might change our angle and ….? Agree to hand over sovereignty over people whose express wish is to remain British. Renounce our defence in 1982 of an unjustified act of aggression by a military dictatorship which oversaw the ‘disappearance’ of thousands?
    Feel embarrassed about defending the islands against an invasion which could never even begin to be justified by any doctrine – let alone that of a ‘just war’?

  • Northerner

    No of course it isn’t disrespectful. It is absurd to be so sensitive. If Cameron realises that Catholics are less prickly than some others, that is a mark of respect.

  • la catholic state

    As if Cameron gave a fig about Britain… he sells the British mainland off to the highest bidder. The Falklands is only grandstanding.

  • chiaramonti

    It was foolish of Cameron to be drawn to make the comment that he did. The Pope has said nothing about the Falklands qua Pope and as the article states, he will, very properly, not do so. In his new office he has to remain strictly neutral. He is Pope for all, not just Argentina. This is yet another example of Cameron failing to think before he speaks and wholly misunderstanding the nature of the Papal office.

  • James M

    I thought it was exactly on target, making a valuable political point as well as being amusing. Popes have in the past said one thing before election, and something different after election.

    I find the Pope’s views about the ordinariate much more disturbing:

    “The new Pope has reportedly said the Church universal needs Anglicans and that the Ordinariate is “quite unnecessary”…

    Bp Venables added that in a conversation with Cardinal Bergoglio, now
    Pope Francis, the latter made it clear that he values the place of Anglicans in the Church universal.

    “He called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate was quite unnecessary and that the Church needs us as

    For one thing, only the CC is the Church universal, & for another, Anglicans are not needed as Anglicans, because Anglicanism is a heresy and a schism, regardless of the character of many Anglicans (such as C. S Lewis). There are no doubt some impressive Mormons too, but that does not make Mormonism any less unChristian. Heresy is no more *needed* than AIDS or paedophilia or addiction. Charity requires heresies and schisms to be distinguished from the Church of Christ.

  • James M

    Maybe he was speaking as an Argentinian. Popes have failed before now to slough off their national sympathies – here’s hoping that he is given the grace to transcend his. The 1982 war was one of the best things this country did – if that was not a just war, what is ?

  • David Lindsay

    I have read the then-future Pope’s wrong but unremarkable words to a military memorial event in Argentina. It is part of the job of the Archbishop of Buenos Aires to mouth the platitudes, which in Argentine terms was what these were, on this sort of occasion, just as it is part of the job of the Archbishop of Canterbury to do much the same thing.

    And all that I can say is that at least Argentina can be bothered to remember. Look at the
    decades-long struggle for the slightest recognition of everyone from the Arctic Convoys (still not allowed to go and collect a Russian medal which they have already been awarded, even though hardly any of them are still alive), to the Women’s Land Army, to the Bevin Boys, among numerous others.

    To this day, nowhere in the world is there a memorial to the British Fallen of Mandated Palestine. That is absolutely disgraceful. Disgusting, in fact. If I were there, then heaven and earth would be being moved in order to erect a memorial to them on one side of Saint Stephen’s Entrance, and a memorial to the ILP Contingent on the other side of Saint Stephen’s Entrance.

    The only thing that the Cold War headcases of the 1970s and1980s Radical Right had against Galatieri was the invasion of the Falkland Islands. Before that, it had loved him so much that when the invasion came, it had to be repelled by deploying ships that until that very moment Thatcher had been about to flog to him at a specially knocked down price.

    Likewise, the only thing that that Radical Right’s successors today have against Kirchner is what is as yet her purely rhetorical claim to the Falkland Islands. Other than that, she is exactly their kind of politician. Complete with, being a Cameron-like economic disaster area.

    While it gives me no pleasure to say this, a third of people in Britain do not now support the Falkland Islanders, rising to 49 per cent, within the margin of error for a majority, in the 18-24 age bracket. Although I was alive at the time, I cannot remember the Falklands War. But I am older than serving members of the present Government, as well as older than at least two people who will be in the Cabinet after the next General Election, one of whom is on Question Time last night.

    It took us nothing like 30 years after we had expended vast amounts of blood and treasure in their defence, to give up vast possessions in Asia and the Pacific. In the most important case, it took us all of two years. Yes, we had to do it, mostly because of that very same war. But having so recently fought a war in order to prevent ourselves from having to do it did not stop us. Never mind having fought a war during which the Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office had been born, as is now the situation here.

    Be afraid, British Falkland Islanders. Be very, very, very afraid. But not of the Pope.

  • David Lindsay

    There are 300 practising Catholics on the Falkland Islands, 100 times the number of votes against remaining a British Overseas Territory (the Gibraltarians and the Chagos Islanders are staunchly Catholic, by the way). They don’t care where the Pope comes from, because the Pope is the Pope is the Pope. And they want this one to visit them when he is next in the neighbourhood – .

    He is no friend of Kirchner’s. She, like David Cameron, is an economically right-wing social liberal. Whereas he, being a Cardinal and now the Pope, is an economically left-wing social conservative. She’ll be the happiest person of all in Buenos Aires that he won’t be coming back from Rome.

    When it comes to territorial claims and that sort of thing, Popes have believed all sorts of things, almost always entirely predictably based on their backgrounds, and almost never to any practical effect, which they have only very rarely sought to give to them. After all, how, exactly? All in all, so what?

    This one, however, has held the line very forcefully both against the oppression of the poor, including the wealth inequality at the root of it, and against things like the erosion of the traditional definition of marriage.

    That’s the thing about Latin America, you have to hold one of those lines as firmly as if you were in Africa or Asia, and you have to hold the other one as firmly as if you were in Europe or North America. He has done both, and he will continue to do both.

    Why would anyone even ask what he thought should be the constitutional status of the Falkland Islands? He really does have other calls on his time and other things on his mind.

    The Falklands issue is the only one on which he agrees with Kirchner, because everyone in Argentina agrees with her on that. But it has nothing to do with his new life as the Pope; even as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, it amounted to nothing more than delivering sermons at memorial events, and even then there was only one thing he could have said. I am not suggesting that he didn’t mean it. But any Argentinian would have meant it.

    And now, he no longer has to say it from time to time. Someone else will have to do that. His appointee, in fact. But it won’t be him, ever again. The numerous points on which he does not agree with Kirchner in the slightest, however, are central to his being Pope. And on all of those, he is deeply, deeply, deeply sound.

    As will be his chosen successor in Buenos Aires. Something for Kirchner to look forward to.

  • Kevin

    the Prime Minister said he should “respect” the islanders’ referendum vote

    And the Prime Minister should respect his promise to give the British people a referendum vote.

  • Kevin

    Thanks for the link.

  • Pope Zicola

    David Cameron has a well-polished brass neck, an irritatingly obstinate nature and a lack of respect for anyone beyond his toffee-nosed, elaborately gilded bubble.
    He has no respect for popes either!
    President C Kirchner would find it a delicious prospect to attempt to drag Pope Francis into a political situation in order to try and raise her flagging popularity in Argentina, as a distraction from Argentina’s economic woes and to exact revenge for his treading on her and her late husband’s political corns.
    On the other hand, Cameron wants Argentina to respect the Falkland Islander’s ”white smoke” – like I said, a well-polished brass neck.
    In that case, why doesn’t he ”respect” the white smoke of the voters who DO NOT WANT same-sex marriage?

  • Julian Lord

    It was foolish of Cameron to be drawn to make the comment that he did

    No — it was inevitable that he would be asked about it, and getting the question out of the way as he did was a necessity.

    He said nothing at all about the Papal office.

  • Julian Lord

    Good comment, though —

    everyone in Argentina agrees with her on that

    … this is not true.

    After the Falklands War, a sizeable number of Argentines realised that the propaganda about the Malvinas inhabitants hoping for “liberation” from British rule, and all the other lies they were told, were just smoke in the wind compared to the humiliation and deaths that they suffered during that war.

    Even many Argentine war veterans of that campaign came to be politically opposed to any future designs of their country upon the islands.

    And many in Argentina today do realise that their Government’s renewed propaganda is just as empty, and that it is a smoke screen to draw attention away from the failures of that Government, pretty much the same as last time BTW — although there is now a new generation of Argentines who have just been taken in by it.

  • Julian Lord

    The Falkland Islands is one of the very few clear-cut political issues that we have — it’s why it’s so easy for some politicians to be gung-ho about them.

    The POV of Britain’s disaffected youth is as of little value in this matter as that of Argentina’s chattering classes …

  • patrickhowes

    The Pope has been leading the critic of President Kirchner,but consider for one moment that he may believe that people do not have claim to a world that was after all created by God!.He is insulted by poverty and even more so by the hard nosed rich who allow people to dwell in such misery.Britain like most other European powers has an awful track record on human rights.They have butchered in Ireland,Scotland,India,Africa and their conduct on the Boer war was atrocious.Maybe that is his angle on things.In Argentina President Kirschner referred to him as the real opposition.Falkland islanders are not native to the Island.The Island was at some time “owned”amybe this is is what the Holy Father questions,Do we have a right to do this?

  • patrickhowes

    Very good point.You see that politicians really never do have peoples really concern at heart,just political gains.Galtieri did the same and so has Cameron and Kirschner.I repeat maybe the Pope see this!

  • Thurorus

    Sad if true, though I think I am going to wait until the Pope says something as Pope, rather than worrying what an Anglican evangelical says he said before he was Pope.

  • teigitur

    That the Ordinariate is”quite unnecssary” is the most worrying thing I have heard so far.

  • $20596475

    Nice to agree with you. He was speaking to a British audience and not to, or about, the new Pope. It was politics. Quite a good quip I thought.

  • Andrew Young

    Render to caesar that which is ceasars, and to God that which is God’s.

  • la catholic state

    Cameron probably thinks he can make political capital out of an anti-Catholic stance….and he probably can. But not much.

  • James Moriarty

    The fact that David Cameron thinks the Falkland Islands should remain as they are (or at least he says he thinks that, which is not the same thing) is almost enough to make me believe that perhaps after all they should be ruled by a distant foreign power such as Argentina. But not quite enough.

    As Pope, rather than as an Argentine bishop, Francis is not going to get seriously involved in the question.

  • Julian Lord

    ¡El Papa es Argentino! should be the rallying call of any Faithful Christians from that (wonderful) place, not any worldly and jealous screeching about the “Malvinas” …

  • Mr Grumpy

    Before we get too excited by what he said last April I think we should check the accuracy of the translation. My suggestion would be:

    “We have come to pray for all who have fallen, sons of the Homeland who went out to defend their mother, the Homeland, and [we have come] to demand from the Homeland what is theirs [by right] and has been usurped from them,”

    The context seems to confirm that he is calling for just treatment of war veterans and not saying anything about Argentina’s claim to the islands.

    The original Spanish is here for anyone who wants to check:

  • Jonathan

    Why is he wearing blue vestments? The argentinian flag is flying in the background. Is he wearing light blue to make a nationalist statement? That would be shameful.

  • Edward Pellew

    “Cheekily”? It was quite a restrained response to this person’s pontificating about the Falklands and ignoring their inhabitants’ right to self-determination. The Bishop of Rome has not been entitled to any deference from the British state since Elizabeth I finally freed us from your clutches.

  • patrickhowes

    But surely God created the world?

  • tmib

    It’s not at all clear which way a uk referendum on gay marriage would go. Most opinion polls have the public around 50/50 on the issue. That’s not white smoke.

  • tmib

    Churches in Spain and countries once ruled by the Spanish crown are granted the privilege of wearing blue vestments on certain Marian feasts

  • Tridentinus

    I have been accused of being controversial over a posting on another thread when my intention was merely to illustrate a point I was trying to make. I do not again wish to be labelled controversial simply because I am attempting to raise a point for discussion.

    I am personally dismayed at the Cardinals’ choice but they have chosen and we must accept it. I am making no judgement upon Pope Francis as a person. However, looking at the current, dire perception of the Catholic Church and Catholicism throughout the world thanks to the ‘child abuse scandals’ which despite all the Church’s recent efforts under Benedict XVI to confront, punish and eradicate the perpetrators simply has not changed this universal perception.
    One might have hoped, given that Pope Benedict XVI’s compulsory conscription into the Hitler Youth amongst other things was used to beat him, that the Conclave would have been scrupulous in selecting a Pope without ‘baggage’.
    Alas, this Pope has bagage, whether deserved or not. In England, his apparent support for the Argentine claim to the Falkland Islands will not go down very well amongst non-Catholics and Catholics alike in this country and David Cameron’s remarks are evidence of this.
    If this were not enough, there is speculation that he connived in the the imprisonment and torture of two Jesuit priests when he was Superior of the Jesuits in Argentina. There are conflicting reports of his involvement or non-involvement with the junta according to whether you believe the testaments of the priests involved and alleged government documents or his own account. A new beginning was expected. A Pope unencumbered by by worldly scandals.
    One might have expected the Conclave to have assessed this and chosen someone who was absolutely beyond the possibility of reproach.

  • Pope Zicola

    Perhaps the ”smoke” is grey, tmib. The spin machine will try like blazes to convince us that same-sex marriage will be shoe-horned/sausage machine’d through.

  • James M

    Good idea.

  • James M

    God is the creator of all things, but often works through creatures, including human creatures.

  • vito

    “We come to pray for all who have fallen, sons of the homeland who went out to
    defend their mother, the homeland, and to reclaim what is theirs, that is of the
    homeland, and it was usurped”

    Well the guy clearly picked a side.

  • I wonder….

    He has already made is view known on the Falklands, so he can never be neutral on the issue unless he makes a statement to that effect, and acknowledging that the Falkland islanders exist, unlike his countries leader.