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Milei Praises Pope in Reversal After Vatican Meeting

(Bloomberg) -- For Javier Milei, Pope Francis used to be “the devil’s man on Earth.” But now, after an encounter at the Vatican, the president praises the pontiff as “the most important” Argentine.

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Milei’s U-turn, in a television interview to be broadcast Monday evening, sees him admitting that he’s been forced to change his tune.

“One of the things I have realized recently is that the Pope is the most important Argentine person in the whole of Argentina, he’s the leader of Catholics in the world,” Milei told Italian TV channel Retequattro in remarks released before the program.

“As a result, I had to reconsider some positions and, from that moment, we began to build a positive bond,” Milei said.

The world’s two most powerful Argentines had traded barbs throughout the election that Milei won in a landslide in November. Milei called the pope a “filthy leftist” and accused him of interfering in the politics of his deeply-Catholic home nation.

The pope, for his part, had warned against “saviors without a past” like Adolf Hitler, comments Milei took as a personal insult.

After Francis granted Milei a private audience Monday morning, the Vatican referred to their “cordial discussions” in a statement. “Appreciation was expressed for the good relations between the Holy See and the Argentine Republic, and the will to strengthen them further.”

Milei and Francis had embraced Sunday on the sidelines of a ceremony at St Peter’s Basilica to canonize Argentina’s first female saint.

Still, Milei and the Pope are not perfectly aligned when it comes to faith.

Asked if he is a Catholic, the president replied in the interview: “Yes, I am Catholic. I also practice Judaism a little bit.”

--With assistance from Thomas Hall and Walter Brandimarte.

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