The two men hold radically different world views and the president, Javier Milei, has spoken about Francis in harsh terms, but the Vatican said their meeting was “cordial.”
President Javier Milei of Argentina, who before taking office ridiculed Pope Francis as an “imbecile” and accused him of violating the Ten Commandments, met with the pontiff on Monday for an hourlong conversation that the Vatican described as “cordial.”
The Vatican said in a statement that the two leaders had spoken at a private meeting about their shared will to further strengthen relations and had addressed the Milei government’s program to counter the economic crisis in Argentina, where the annual inflation rate is at 211 percent.
On social media, Mr. Milei’s office posted a photograph of the pope with the president and the president’s sister, Karina Milei, one of his closest advisers.
The discussions, which came a day after Mr. Milei attended a Mass for the canonization of Argentina’s first female saint, also addressed international issues, “especially ongoing conflicts and the commitment to peace among nations,” the Vatican said.
The good will was not a given. Both men were born in Buenos Aires, and though the pope is a national hero to many in Argentina, where a majority of people identify as Roman Catholic, Mr. Milei, who says he is an “anarcho-capitalist” and who ran under the banner of a far-right libertarian party, has repeatedly denigrated Francis.
In the years preceding his election in November, Mr. Milei often attacked the pope, who in his writings and speeches has repeatedly spoken out against free market economies for generating income inequalities that affect the most vulnerable.