From 'imbecile' to 'Your Holiness' - Argentina's Milei changes tone on Pope Francis

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -Argentina's right-wing President-elect Javier Milei, who in past years has called Pope Francis everything from a "son of a bitch" to an "imbecile" to the devil's man on earth, spoke on the phone with his countryman on Tuesday.

"We are pleased to announce that His Holiness, Pope Francis, spoke with our future president to congratulate him and to express his wishes for the unity and progress for our country," Milei's office said in a statement.

The statement added that Pope Francis had promised to send a rosary gift and they hoped to host a visit "very soon."

The Vatican had earlier said the two spoke in the late afternoon but did not disclose what was discussed and who initiated the call.

Before he decided to run for president, the former TV "shock jock" commentator made a series of attacks on the pope, calling him an "imbecile who defends social justice," a "son-of-a-bitch preaching communism" and "the representative of the evil one on Earth."

In September, priests from poor districts in Buenos Aires, the pope's birthplace and where he also was archbishop, held a Mass to defend Francis and condemn Milei's attacks on him.

Argentine newspaper La Nacion reported citing sources that the pope initiated the call, which it said lasted eight minutes.

Francis, 86, has made more than 40 trips outside Italy since his election 10 years ago as the first Latin American pontiff but has yet to visit Argentina.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Additional reporting by Kylie Madry and Sarah Morland; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)