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News > Latin America

Pope Francis Sends Jailed Argentine Activist a Blessed Rosary

  • Milagro Sala visited Pope Francis in the Vatican in 2014.

    Milagro Sala visited Pope Francis in the Vatican in 2014. | Photo: Facebook / Milagro Sala

Published 15 February 2016

Pope Francis met with Milagro Sala in the Vatican in 2014 after visiting communities where the Indigenous leader worked in their home country Argentina.

Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with jailed Argentine activist and Indigenous leader Milagro Sala on Monday by sending her a blessed rosary. Sala has been called the first political prisoner of President Mauricio Macri’s administration.

“The pope appreciates the work of social leaders, who are fighting to change the situation of the many who have no place to live or adequate food,” Palmeyro Enrique, director of the Vatican education network Scholas Occurrentes, told Argentine radio station La Red on Monday.

Another gesture by the pope in favor of Milagro Sala: he sent her a blessed rosary.

According to Palmeyro, movements called on the pope to pray for Milagro Sala, and the Pontiff responded by sending her a rosary as a token of his support for her social her and her current plight.

IN DEPTH: Pope Francis and the Americas

The rosary was delivered to Sala’s organization, the Tupac Amaru movement, whose representatives will deliver the token to her in jail. The gift comes as Pope Francis, called the pope of the poor, is in the midst of a six-day visit to Mexico from Feb. 12 to 17.

Sala, founder of the 70,000 member Tupac Amaru organization, was arrested on Jan. 16 in the province of Jujuy on charges of inciting violence after protesting in a month-long sit in against Governor Gerardo Morales, who ordered her arrest.

This is the rosary Francisco gave to Milagro Sala, it has the Vatican seal on the case and beads.

A judge cleared Sala of those charges on at the end of January, but before she could be released she was handed down a new set of accusations and ordered to stay jailed while investigations into charges of “illicit association, fraud, and extortion” are carried out at the request of the Jujuy government.

Sala’s arrest has been widely interpreted as a form of political revenge against the social leader who has long been an ally of former leftist Presidents Cristina Fernandez and Nestor Kirchner.

GALLERY: Furious at Milagro Sala Arrest, Argentines Hold Open Town Hall

Many high-profile activists and opposition lawmakers have called Sala the first political prisoner of Macri’s government and said that her arrest is an attempt to criminalize and silence social protest.

An Argentine bishop warned that the country must not fall into committing what the pope calls “subtle xenophobia.”

Francisco marks the court for Macri before his trip to Rome: he sent a blessed rosary to Milagro Sala, still in jail.

Pope Francis, originally from Argentina and a former archbishop of Buenos Aires, knew Sala in Argentina, where he visited the poor communities where Tupac Amaru works. Sala also visited the pontiff in Rome in 2014, where she exchanged gifts with the Holy See.

President Macri is set to pay a visit to the Vatican and meet with the pope on Feb. 27. Many expect Sala’s detention and the efforts by members of the Catholic church in Argentina to organize for her release to come up during the meeting.

Sala is a well-known activist in Argentina and a representative in the South American trade bloc Mercosur Parliament, known as Parlasur.

WATCH: Hundreds Demonstrate in Support of Jailed Leader Milagro Sala

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