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Argentina weighs putting Pope Francis' face on a coin

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 9:56 PM EST, Wed November 27, 2013
Argentine lawmakers will debate a proposal Thursday to create a commemorative coin as a tribute to Latin America's first Pope.
Argentine lawmakers will debate a proposal Thursday to create a commemorative coin as a tribute to Latin America's first Pope.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A proposal to create a coin honoring Pope Francis passes lower house
  • An Argentine lawmaker proposes creating a coin to honor Pope Francis
  • The commemorative coin aims to honor the Pope's Argentine origin
  • Pope Francis is the first Pontiff from Latin America

(CNN) -- Just a few days after Pope Francis decried capitalism, Argentine lawmakers weighed a new way to honor him: putting his face on a coin.

A proposal to create a commemorative coin as a tribute to Latin America's first Pope passed in Argentina's lower house on Thursday, Rep. Oscar Cachi Martinez said in a post on his official Facebook page.

Martinez first proposed the measure in April, and it garnered approval from congressional committees earlier this month. Now the bill will be sent to the South American county's Senate for consideration.

The goal of the coins, according to the text of the proposed law, is "to commemorate an event of global dimensions, so our present and future generations remember this splendid act in the history of humanity, in which the principal actor is an Argentine."

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Beneath the Pope's face, the coins would read, "Tribute from the Argentine People to Pope Francis."

Catholic faithful across Latin America cheered the election of Pope Francis earlier this year.

Even though about 480 million of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics live in the region, for centuries, the church's top job had gone to Europeans.

That changed with the announcement that then-Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who served as archbishop of Buenos Aires, would become the new Pontiff.

Many Argentines were overjoyed. But the news was met with a more tepid response from President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who sent a dry letter of congratulations that failed to mention that Francis was the first Pope from Argentina and the Western Hemisphere.

Several years before, Fernandez's government had sparred with Bergoglio in a notorious war of words over a gay marriage law the President backed.

But since his election in March, Francis has made headlines by decrying the iniquities of modern capitalism, embracing the poor and people with disabilities and reaching out to gays and lesbians.

At the same time, the 77-year-old pontiff has sought to to awaken a spirit of joy and compassion in the church, scolding Catholic "sourpusses" who hunt down rule-breakers and calling out a "tomb psychology" that "slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum."

And Martinez says there's no doubt Pope Francis is already leaving his mark.

"To this Argentine who, for being a good pastor to his flock, especially to those who most need him, we all owe a tribute, a great tribute," Martinez said in a post about the initiative on his official website, making the case for Argentina's lawmakers to act.

"We believe that the way of being, the charisma and the humility of Pope Francis have managed to revive global sympathy for the Catholic Church," he said.

CNN's Daniel Burke contributed to this report.

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