Pope Francis photographed with sign urging Falklands dialogue
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Pope Francis was drawn into the long-running debate over the Falkland Islands on Wednesday, when he was photographed holding a sign calling for talks between Argentina and the UK about the territory's future.
The photo, taken at his weekly general audience in the Vatican, gained widespread attention in the South American press.
The sign, written in Spanish, read: “It's time for dialogue between Argentina and the United Kingdom on the Malvinas,” using the Spanish term for the Falklands.
Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez later tweeted the photo without additional comment.
Britain rejects Argentina's requests for dialogue over the long-term future of the Falklands since 99.8 percent of the island’s residents voted in a 2013 referendum to remain a British overseas territory.
‘All sorts of objects’
The Vatican on Thursday played down the significance of Francis agreeing to pose for a picture with the politically-charged poster.
A Vatican spokesman suggested that the pope – a native of Argentina and the first non-European pontiff in over a millennia – may not have been aware of what was written on the sign when it was handed to him at St Peter’s Basilica.
"It happened during a general audience when many believers presented the pope with all sorts of objects, often to have a photograph taken," said spokesman Ciro Benedettini.
On his recent trip to Bolivia, Francis was presented with a crucifix based on the hammer and sickle emblem of communism, and which was sculpted by an assassinated left-wing priest.
After the photo was widely shared on the Internet, Francis felt the need to explain that, while he admired the priest, he did not share his revolutionary views. He added that he was not offended by the Marxist-inspired cross.
Argentina and Britain fought a war over the disputed South Atlantic archipelago in 1982, ending with the South American country’s surrender after the death of 649 Argentines and 255 British troops.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)