Falkland Islands: Pope pictured with sign calling for 'dialogue'

Aug 21, 2015

Argentinian president tweets photo, but Vatican says Pope Francis did not intend to enter the debate

PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/Getty

Pope Francis has been pictured holding up a sign calling for dialogue over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands – but the Vatican has said he did not intend to take a stand on the issue.

Meeting the crowd at a general audience earlier this week, the Pope was handed a sign by a member of the public. It read, in Spanish: "It's time for dialogue between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands."

Francis held the sign for a while, and photographs of him with it have been reproduced around the world – particularly in his homeland, Argentina, where the populist government has urged Britain to give up the islands.

It is not at all clear from the pictures that Francis knew what was written on the sign as he held it – and the Vatican has insisted he did not. Even the Argentinian foreign ministry said only that Francis had "received" a pro-dialogue message.

A Vatican spokesman told the Daily Telegraph: "There has been no change of position on this issue. The Pope does not want to enter into this debate.

"The Pope is presented with many things during his general audiences. He receives a long queue of people. Holding something does not mean that he is taking a position either way."

When Francis was known as Rev Jorge Bergoglio he spoke in "nationalistic" terms about the islands, which are known in his homeland as Las Malvinas, says The Guardian. Since becoming Pope, he has not mentioned the dispute.

Francis has maintained this silence despite a formal request from Argentina's president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner that he intervene. Kirchner yesterday tweeted pictures of the Pope with the sign, and without repeating the Vatican denial.

The islanders voted overwhelmingly to remain British in a March 2013 referendum.

Falklands war: Thatcher papers reveal clash over military strategy

19 June

At the height of the Falklands War, Margaret Thatcher suspected that her foreign secretary, Francis Pym, was attempting to combine with the Americans to outmanoeuvre her, according to revelations contained in newly released memoirs.

The documents reveal that Thatcher clashed with Pym in two cabinet meetings, as the Foreign Secretary attempted to work alongside the US to resolve the conflict diplomatically rather than resorting to war.

The revelations were uncovered in previously unreleased memoirs written a year after the 1982 conflict. The papers have been "gifted to the nation" by Thatcher's estate in lieu of £1m of inheritance tax under an Arts Council England scheme, The Guardian reports.

The Arts Council England says the Falklands memoir is "probably the single most significant historical document Margaret Thatcher ever wrote".

The memoirs detail two separate clashes between Thatcher and Pym. The first was on 24 April, when Pym returned from a visit to Washington with a peace proposal he urged cabinet ministers to support. Thatcher wrote: "This was to be one of the most crucial days in the Falklands story and a critical one for me personally. Early on Saturday morning Francis came to my study in No 10 to tell me the results of his efforts. The document he brought back was a complete sellout."

Thatcher was unwilling to put the proposal to Cabinet, but Pym insisted. The plan was in any case rejected by Argentina.

The second dispute came ten days later, after the sinking of the General Belgrano and Argentina's attack on the HMS Sheffield. Pym tabled another peace proposal before the UK cabinet. The plan was received favourably, but the terms were again rejected by the Argentinians, "making Pym's 'victory' academic", the Guardian says.

Thatcher donated most of her papers before her death in 2013. The majority are held by the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, which is based in Churchill College.

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