Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner uses audience with Pope Francis to request Falklands intervention

  • @johnmatthewhall

The Argentinian President today used an audience with Pope Francis to request he intervene in the country's long-running dispute with Britain over the Falkland Islands.

Despite having a patchy relationship with the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cristina Kirchner said she asked for his intercession to ''facilitate dialogue“ over the islands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas and claims belong to them.

It is not yet known how Pope Francis responded to Kirchner's request.

The move comes just a week after David Cameron publicly stated that he doesn't agree with Francis' views on the Falklands. The Argentinian-born Pope has previously been quoted as saying that Britain ''usurped” the remote islands.

Although Pope Francis' views on the Falklands could be seen as a problem for Britain, his relationship with Kirchner is also famously icy, with the pair often clashing over the President and her late husband Nestor's socially liberal, left-leaning politics.

In an address last year, the future Pope strongly criticised Kirchner, saying Argentina was being hurt by her totalitarianism, corruption and attempts to secure unlimited power.

Relations appeared to be considerably less tense today, however.

During her audience, Kirchner, who stopped attending the former Cardinal Bergoglio's church services apparently in protest at his lobbying of bishops to oppose gay marriage legislation, presented the Pope with a mate gourd - a traditional Argentinian tea urn.

Kirchner apparently told reporters that Francis kissed her to thank her for the gift, stating: “Never in my life has a Pope kissed me”.

The Pope has a busy week ahead, with a number of world leaders scheduled to meet him over the coming days.

Among them will be Robert Mugabe, a practicing Catholic who has special permission to breach a European travel ban for visits to the Vatican. He is due to visit Pope Francis tomorrow.