Pope Francis has rejected a donation of over a million dollars, in part because the numbers 666 — which the Bible calls “the number of the Beast” — appear in the sum, the Guardian is reporting.
To be fair, there were other reasons for the Pope’s rejection of the donation, and the “666” part, as the Pope admits, is more of an afterthought. But still, the rejection epitomizes the rather icy relationship the Pontiff has with another prominent Catholic on the world stage: Argentinan president Mauricio Macri.
President Mauricio Macri Gets Back To Work After Friday’s Hospitalization due to slight arrhythmia pic.twitter.com/3dkuqLAq8V
— fixer-argentina (@fixerargentina) June 6, 2016
Here’s what happened: earlier this month, Macri made a donation, on behalf of the Argentine government, to the Scholas Occurentes educational foundation, an organization backed by the Pontiff and which itself grew out of a similar organization Pope Francis founded back when he was simply Jorge Bergoglio, Bishop of Buenos Aires.
Specifically, Macri donated 16,666,000 Argentinian Pesos (around $1.2 million USD).
Now, as you may remember from Sunday school, the numbers 666 have some significance in the New Testament. Specifically, Revelation 13:18 (New International Version).
“This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.”
The problem with that verse is that its meaning is anything but clear. If you ask 50 Bible scholars what it means, you’ll get 50 answers. For example, Pastor Roger Barrier, writing in Crosswalk, says it may be a coded way of referring to Roman Emperor Nero. However, Matt Slick, writing Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, says that the verse refers to an as-yet-unidentified future person who will emerge. Or, this Christian writer, who doesn’t give his full name (and can’t spell “reveal” properly), says it somehow refers to Barack Obama.
Regardless of the specific interpretation, one thing is clear: to Christians, 666 equals bad.
And Pope Francis wanted no part of it.
“I don’t like the 666.”
To be fair, the numbers 666 were only a part of the reason for Francis’ rejection of Macri’s donation; in fact, he only mentioned the numbers in a post-script to his letter to Macri. The real reasons for the rejection run significantly deeper.
Specifically, according to the Washington Post, the relationship between the two prominent Catholics can most charitably be described as the two not seeing eye to eye. Or to put it more bluntly, the two just don’t like each other.
Macri presides over Francis’ home country of Argentina, where the future Pope grew up and served in ministry before being elected to the papacy. However, relations between the two began to sour in 2009, when Marci didn’t do enough, in Francis’ opinion, to stop same-sex marriage from being legalized in Argentina. Similarly, Francis has championed “progressive” approaches to Argentina’s economic problems, including rampant poverty and sweatshop conditions for some workers in the country. The right-leaning Marci, however, has imposed strict austerity measures on the struggling South American country, in order to try to put a stop to runaway inflation.
Things appear to have come to a head in February, when Marci was given an audience with the Pope at the Vatican. In what Argentine media described as a “frosty 22 minutes,” the meeting went bad from the start, with Marci apparently forgetting his manners when greeting the Pope.
“How are you doing, Francis?”
The Pope’s Scholas Occurentes foundation will try to come up with the money donated by Macri some other way, according to the Buenos Aires Herald.
“We’ll try to obtain that necessary contribution from multilateral credit agencies and with the help of private donors.”
Do you believe Pope Francis was right to refuse a donation from Argentina’s president?
[Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images]