Argentina's Macri meets with bishops worried by rising poverty

Buenos Aires, Dec 20 (epa-efe).- Argentine President Mauricio Macri met Thursday with leaders of the Catholic bishops conference as the church has become increasingly vocal about rising poverty.

Macri received the conference chair, San Isidro Bishop Oscar Ojea, and the other members of the executive committee in his office at the Casa Rosada and exchanged Christmas greetings with the prelates, the government said in a statement.

The president assured the bishops that his administration was taking the necessary steps to address economic and social problems, according to the statement.

"We still have hard months ahead of us. We are in the territory and we know what's happening, we aren't ignoring the problems," Macri told the prelates.

The encounter came a week after a respected research unit at Universidad Catolica Argentina (UCA) released a study showing that 33.7 percent of Argentines were living below the poverty line in the third quarter of 2018, a 5.4 increase from the same period of 2017.

Purchasing power has suffered as already high inflation spiked when the value of the peso began plunging in April.

"The bishops, from their pastoral perspective, took the opportunity to express their concern about the increase in the poverty index ..., the decrease in consumption, the increase in unemployment and the increase in child malnutrition," the church said in a statement after the meeting with Macri.