Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic military chaplain, Bishop Paul Mason, handed the statuette to his Argentine counterpart Bishop Santiago Olivera as Francis watched over the ceremony in St Peter’s Square last month. It was meant as a gesture of civility between the two countries 37 years after the bitter, violent war was fought. Bishop Mason received a replica to take back to Aldershot, Hampshire, where the original had been kept safe at Catholic Military Cathedral of St Michael and St George.
Pope Francis blessed both statuettes before they departed the Vatican, with the original now being prepared for a tour of the whole of Argentina.
The Madonna was taken to the Falkland Islands – known as the ‘Malvinas’ by South American patriots – by Argentine troops a week after the initial invasion, but as British forces began to overwhelm their opponents the artefact was left behind.
Bishop Olivera, who received the statuette, had requested it be returned to allow locals in Argentina to venerate it once more, a request which Bishop Mason was eager to fulfil.
He said: “I immediately realised what a good opportunity it was, not only to return the statue, but also to demonstrate a united faith across two countries that have experienced political division.”
While religious figures from each country are trying to inspire unity between the UK and Argentina, incoming President in Buenos Aires, Alberton Fernandez, has raised serious concerns over the archipelago’s security.
Peronist Fernandez is supported by former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and the populist pair have vowed to take back the Islands as part of their election campaign.
The Argentine President-elect also made a shocking revelation that Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called him last week as the new leader in Buenos Aires vows to take back the British territory.
He told Argentine media: “If Labour wins and Mr Corbyn becomes the next British Prime Minister, he can be sure I will call him to claim the Malvinas because they are an integral part of Argentina.
“The Malvinas Islands are part of Latin-America, it is a territory which was taken from us.
“It’s true that many years ago we lost a war, but that does not end Argentine sovereignty over the Malvinas.”
The Labour leader reportedly congratulated Fernandez after his election victory.
He also sent a chilling warning to Tory leader Boris Johnson after he congratulated Fernandez on his election win.
Mr Ferandez replied in a tweet saying: “Thanks to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the greeting. Without giving up our claim of sovereignty, we must work together to strengthen the ties between the Argentine and British people, who share much more than we imagine.”
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Mr Fernandez said he wants to “renew the claim of sovereignty” of the Falkland Islands as one of his first points of business having won elections last Sunday with a convincing 48 percent of the vote.
His electoral success comes off the back of a disastrous presidency from Mauricio Macri’s government, with promises broken and economic turmoil remaining in full flow despite his pro market stance.
Despite Fernandez’ backing by former leader Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and their shared determination to reclaim the Falklands, they are likely to find it near impossible to achieve.
Amended in 1994, the Argentine constitution suggests that Buneos Aires can never take the islands by force.
The document instructs the nation’s government that any “recovery” of the territories must be done within the realms of international law.
It reads: “The recovery of said territories and the full exercise of sovereignty, respectful of the way of life of their inhabitants and according to the principles of international law, are a permanent and unrelinquished goal of the Argentine people.”
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