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Gerard O’ConnellApril 23, 2023
A pilgrim holds Argentina's flag as Pope Francis greets the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican June 22, 2022. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis wants to visit Argentina, his homeland, in 2024. He told this to an Argentinean journalist this past week. He also revealed that he has told Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the private secretary of the late Pope Benedict XVI, that he has to leave his Vatican apartment in the coming months.

Francis revealed all this when he received Joaquín Morales Solá, an Argentinean journalist whom he has known for many years, in a private audience some days ago at Santa Marta, the Vatican guest house where he lives.

“I want to go to the country [Argentina] next year,” he told Mr. Morales Solá. The journalist, who wrote an article on his meeting with Francis in the Sunday edition of La Nacion, April 23, explained that the pope saw 2024 as a propitious moment because there are no elections in the country (elections will be held in October 2023) and felt that by announcing the visit now he would avoid being seen as in favor of one political party. He was keen that his visit should not be read through a political lens. According to Vatican protocol, the pope does not visit a country in an election year.

Pope Francis wants to visit Argentina, his homeland, in 2024 and has told Archbishop Georg Gänswein that he has leave his Vatican apartment in the coming months.

Francis had originally planned to visit Argentina, Chile and Uruguay in 2017 but had to postpone the visit to Chile because of elections in that country, and when he later visited Chile and Peru it was not possible to include his homeland.

The first Latin America pope had also sparked expectation of a possible visit last month when he gave interviews to several Argentinian dailies, including La Nacion, and in them repeatedly confirmed his desire to visit his homeland. But this is the first time that he has given a date for the visit.

Speaking of his homeland, Francis also confirmed that he will appoint a new archbishop of Buenos Aires in the near future as successor to Cardinal Mario Aurelio Poli, whose resignation he accepted on reaching the age of 75 last November.

Mr. Morales Solá reported that in the course of their conversation, Pope Francis again defended St. John Paul II against allegations made by Pietro Orlandi, the brother of Emanuela Orlandi, the “Vatican girl” (as Netflix labeled her) who disappeared in 1983 at the age of 15. “John Paul II was a saint in life and is now also formally so [because of his canonization] after his death. No one can honestly doubt the goodness of Pope Wojtyla,” Francis said.

Referring to his predecessors, Francis said he “still misses” Benedict XVI who died last December. He recalled that the German pope always gave him “good counsels and was a permanent help.” He revealed that he met Benedict “much more than is known,” especially in the last period of his life when his health was deteriorating.

In this context, Francis revealed that he had told Benedict’s private secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, that he has to decide whether he wishes to remain in Italy or to return to Germany but said that, in any case, he would have to leave his Vatican apartment in a couple of months. Mr. Morales Solá reported that “Francis reminded [Archbishop] Gänswein that all the private secretaries of the popes had returned to their [home] dioceses when the pope died,” and he cited the case of John Paul II’s private secretary, Stanislaw Dziwisz, then archbishop, who returned to Krakow after the death of the Polish pope.

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