VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis' diplomatic skills were put to the test Monday as he met with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, with whom he has clashed over her socially liberal policies and what he has called the government's totalitarianism.
Fernandez called on the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires on Monday at his temporary home, the Vatican hotel on the edge of the Vatican gardens, and the two later lunched together, a day before she and other world leaders attend his installation Mass in St. Peter's Square that some estimates say could draw 1 million people to Rome.
The venue is unusual, given the pope has technically taken possession of the papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace, where such formal audiences are usually held. For a pope who has already come to be known for his gestures, the choice was perhaps significant, though he has conducted all of his audiences in the hotel to date, including with the Vatican secretary of state earlier in the day.
The Vatican said it planned no statement, describing the meeting as private and informal.
Fernandez and her predecessor and late husband, Nestor Kirchner, defied church teaching to push through a series of measures with popular backing in Argentina, including mandatory sex education in schools, free distribution of contraceptives in public hospitals, and the right for transsexuals to change their official identities on demand.
Argentina in 2010 became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriages.