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The Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has attended the patriotic Te Deum service at the cathedral in Buenos Aires for the first time in eight years.
The move is the latest sign of thawing relations between the Church and the Argentine Government, following the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as Pope last year. The president had avoided attending the service since she and her husband, the former President Néstor Kirchner, were offended by homilies in which Cardinal Bergoglio criticised the “exhibitionism” of politicians, among other faults.
Last week, the new Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Mario Poli, presided at the celebration, striking a conciliatory note and making frequent references to Pope Francis. He called for unity and dialogue in Argentina, saying “either we gamble on dialogue or everyone loses out”.
Mrs Fernandez read the Prayer for Peace during the ceremony, which marks the 1810 May Revolution, which eventually led to Argentina declaring itself independent from Spain.
The president’s attendance at the ceremony marks a period in which Mrs Fernandez has endeavoured to mend fences with Pope Francis. However, in the last year her Government has been criticised by the Argentine bishops over its record on the “war” against drugs and more recently corruption and violence.