David Cameron has responded somewhat cheekily to Pope Francis today, after it was revealed that the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires is on record for having said the Falkland Islands belong to Argentina.
Asked at a press conference in Brussels about the then Cardinal Bergoglio’s remarks, the Prime Minister said he should “respect” the islanders’ referendum vote. He added, tongue in cheek: “The white smoke over the Falklands was pretty clear.”
Mr Cameron said: “I don’t agree with him – respectfully, obviously.
“There was a pretty extraordinarily clear referendum in the Falkland Islands and I think that is a message to everyone in the world that the people of these islands have chosen very clearly the future they want and that choice should be respected by everyone.”
Last year, at a Mass at Buenos Aires for the 30th anniversary of the 1982 Falklands War, the future Pope told worshippers: “We come to pray for all who have fallen, sons of the homeland who went out to defend their mother, the homeland, and to reclaim what is theirs, that is of the homeland, and it was usurped.”
Argentine president Cristina Kirchner is reported to have already tried to recruit Pope Francis in her efforts to take control of the Falkland Islands and renew international pressure for talks.
But the Pope is highly unlikely to intervene in the dispute. Like Benedict XVI, he will try to stay away from engaging directly in the politics of his homeland, including its foreign affairs.
As Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict had made some of his views on foreign policy explicit, such as opposing Turkey’s entry into the European Union. But he never reiterated them as Pope, and even appeared to change his mind on the issue.
Pope Francis may choose to exert some influence through diplomatic channels, but any public support will probably not be forthcoming, especially given the recent referendum showing the overwhelming desire of the islanders to remain a British overseas territory.
By Roberto C. Laver (2001)
A. ARGENTINIA’S CLAIM OF SOVEREIGNTY
Argentina bases its claim to the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) on historical events of a political and diplomatic nature which occurred before the British took possession of the islands in 1833. Argentina’s claim to title is primarily based on its succession to Spain’s rights and its effective occupation of the islands. Britain had no legal right, according to the Argentine position, to occupy the islands in 1833 and expel the Argentine settlement at Port Soledad. This illegal occupation was immediately protested by the local authorities and thereafter Argentina has never accepted British jurisdiction over the islands.
1. Argentina’s claim to title by succession
(1) Papal Bulls and the Tordesillas Treaty. The first ground for title is the papal bull Inter Caetera of May 4, 1493. It is argued that Spain’s rights go back to the aforementioned bull, by which Pope Alexander VI awarded to Spain and exclusive right of occupancy and control over all areas, including the seas, to the west of an imaginary line drawn 100 leagues west of the Azores and Cape Verde Islands and running pole to pole. The region granted to Spain included all the mainland and then islands of the “Ocean Sea,” discovered or to be discovered in the future, beyond the line of division established in the bull. The remaining area was awarded to Portugal. The Inter Caetera grant was extended by another bull, dated September 26, 1493 and later modified by the Tordesillas Treaty of June 7, 1494. The Treaty of Tordesillas was later ratified by Pope Julius through the bull Ea Quae of 1506.
The Argentine position holds that the papacy had authority to grant titles over lands and that this authority had been accepted by Christian monarchs since the Middle Ages. According to accepted doctrine of the time, the world was the property of God, and that the reigning pope, as God’s representative on Earth, enjoyed the right to award lands unoccupied by Europeans to monarchs for purposes of converting the inhabitants to the Catholic faith.
verb [ with obj. ]
take (a position of power or importance) illegally or by force: Richard usurped the throne.
• take the place of (someone in a position of power) illegally: supplant: the Hanoverian dynasty had usurped the Stuarts.
• [ no obj. ] (usurp on/upon) archaic encroach or infringe upon (someone's rights): the Church had usurped upon the domain of the state.
ORIGIN Middle English (in the sense ‘appropriate (a right) wrongfully’): from Old French usurper, from Latin usurpare ‘seize for use.’