Pope Francis meets with Argentine president Cristina Fernandez

Pope Francis, Argentina's Jorge Mario Bergoglio, leading a

Pope Francis, Argentina's Jorge Mario Bergoglio, leading a Mass at the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican a day after his election. (March 14, 2013) (Credit: Getty Images)

VATICAN CITY -- A day before his official installation as pope, Francis met Monday with a frequent adversary, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez -- and gave her a kiss.

In the past, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires accused Fernandez's populist government of demagoguery, while she called his positions against gay marriage, adoptions and free contraception reminiscent of the Middle Ages and the Inquisition, the church's aggressive persecution of people it considered heretics.

But Monday, as they met and then had lunch at a Vatican hotel that is the pope's temporary residence, all that friction seemed at least temporarily forgotten.


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"Never in my life has a pope kissed me!" Fernandez said afterward. She gave the pontiff a mate gourd and straw, to hold the traditional Argentine tea that the new pope loves.

The meeting took place as Rome braced for up to 1 million people expected for Francis' official inaugural Mass Tuesday.

Heads of state, princes, diplomats and other leaders including Vice President Joe Biden descended on the city. It could be the largest crowd since Pope John Paul II's beatification in 2011 attracted 1.5 million people to St. Peter's Square and surrounding streets.

Pope Francis will be installed as the 266th leader of the 1.2-billion-strong Catholic Church.

Representatives of 132 countries and international organizations are expected, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman. He added that no specific invitations were issued.

"Those who wish to come, can," he said. "No one is refused, no one is invited."

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, who was educated in a Jesuit mission before becoming a leader of a revolution that overthrew colonialism in the former Rhodesia, is among those arriving.

Mugabe, 89, is the subject of a travel ban by European nations to protest his human rights record in a decade of political and economic turmoil in his southern African nation. But the ban does not affect his trips to the Vatican through Italy.

In keeping with Francis' simplicity and humility, a legacy he brought from Argentina and which has continued since he was elected pope last week, the Vatican announced that the inaugural Mass will be a simplified version of the 2005 Mass that brought Pope Benedict XVI to the papacy.

It will also include many gestures to Eastern Rite Catholics and Orthodox Christians in a sign of church unity.

Among those attending will be the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. He is the first from the Istanbul-based Patriarchate in nearly 1,000 years to attend a papal inauguration since the Eastern and Western churches split in 1054.

The Vatican also said Francis' coat of arms will be the same Jesuit-inspired one he used as archbishop of Buenos Aires, though combined with traditional papal symbols.

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