The Argentine statue – the Madonna – was captured by British troops following their heroic victory in the Falklands, but will now be returned to Buenos Aires via a handover with Pope Francis. Britains 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 Peters Square yesterday.
It was meant as a gesture of civility between the two countries 37 years after the bitter, violent war was fought. Related articles
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Cristina Fernandez BACK in Argentina: Why its bad news for Falklands? Bishop Mason received a replica to take back to Aldershot, 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 heading back to Argentina on Sunday before touring the South American country.The Madonna was taken to the Falkland Islands 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.
Falklands:Pope Francis oversaw the ceremony (Image: getty)
Falklands: The two Bishops struck more friendly chords between the countries (Image: getty)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.
The feeling of unity between British and Argentine Catholics has not been echoed by the incoming, newly elected President Fernandez, who has expressed a strong desire to reclaim the islands.Peronist Fernandez is supported by former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and the populist pair are making the archipelago a central part of their nationalist campaign.
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.READ MORE: Falkland islanders fear fresh Argentina row after election result
Falklands: The statue was left behind by Argentine troops during the war (Image: getty) Related articles
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.Despite Fernandez backing by former leader Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and their shared determination to reclaim the Falklands,.....