Archdiocese of Buenos Aires: From One Jorge to Another

June 09, 2023
Pope Francis and Bishop Jorge Garcia Cuerva

Pope Francis has decided. Bishop Jorge Garcia Cuerva will now preside over the destiny of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, the most important in Argentina, where the current Roman Pontiff was archbishop for 15 years. A divisive choice in the image of the host of St. Martha’s House: he delights the priests of the slums and worries conservative Catholics.

It did not take long for the Vatican to announce the name of the successor of Msgr. Mario Poli, Cardinal-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, who resigned due to the age limit set by current canon law. 

Msgr. Jorge García Cuerva – hitherto Bishop of Rio Gallegos – now occupies the seat that another Jorge (Bergoglio) had to leave when he was elected as Bishop of Rome to the sovereign pontificate in 2013.

It is a choice in line with the doctrine of the “peripheries” dear to Pope Francis. Archbishop Garcia Cuerva has long ministered to prisoners, drug addicts, and slum dwellers. These is a fine work of mercy.

But the new Primate of Argentina is also in favor of welcoming same-sex “couples” into parish communities, willingly granting baptism to the children of these “couples.” Something to delight progressives and worry Catholics attached to the faith of their ancestors.

The height of bad luck for the new archbishop: a video on which he appears celebrating Mass in 2016, defending Peronism in a homily haphazardly mixing politics and biblical quotations, has gone viral in the country.

For the record, Peronism is a doctrine founded by Colonel Juan Domingo Peron (1895-1974). Georges Kletch, in Foreign Policy (February-March 1950 p. 87), explained this doctrine as “simultaneous borrowings from Christian solidarity – the dignity of the human person, the “dignification” of work, the humanization of capital – from the Stalinist Constitution of 1936, and from the precepts propagated in France during the war under the name of national revolution, without forgetting certain Mussolini maxims.”

In short, it is a kind of sulfurous mixture which could frighten many Argentine Catholics. Indeed, in an article published by one of the country's leading newspapers, La Nacion, a bishop who wishes to remain anonymous said that Msgr. Garcia Cuerva's remarks “unfortunate and reckless,” and that as a consequence they would intensify divisions, particularly political ones, in Argentina.

It is an unwelcome division for the diplomatic services of the Holy See, given that Pope Francis has planned to visit his home country in 2024 for the first time since his accession to the sovereign pontificate. But the Argentinians, passionate about football and a bit mischievous, know it well: when a player is not really in his place, it is above all the coach who must be blamed…

Finally, it should be remembered that the links between the current Pope and Peronism are not clear. The Vaticanist Sandro Magister devoted an article in 2015 to this disputed question: “ When Bergoglio was Peronist. And he still is.”