Pope turns down Argentinian President's donation because it included the figure 666

The Pope and Macri met at the Vatican this year.Reuters

Officials have tried to soften reports that relations are strained between the Pope and the Argentinian government after Francis turned down a significant donation from the Argentinian President because the sum included the figure 666.

Foreign minister Susana Malcorra on Monday insisted that "there was no animosity at all toward the president" from Pope Francis.

On Saturday it emerged that the Pontiff had rejected the charitable donation of 16,666,000 pesos (£860,000), which Argentinian President Mauricio Macri had offered to the Scholas Occurentes educational foundation.

According to Italian newspaper the Vatican Insider, the Pope – who is from Argentina – reportedly wrote "I don't like the 666" in a letter explaining his rejection.

The number 666 is considered to be the "mark of the beast", mentioned in the Book of Revelation. The Vatican Insider said to include the figure in the sum seemed "a joke in bad taste for Francis".

"The Argentine government needs to address so many needs you shouldn't be demanding a single penny from it," the Pope added in a letter to the educational charity that was to receive the donation.

However, Malcorra said that she and Francis had since had a "really rich and very natural" conversion at the UN's World Food Programme, at which the Pope spoke on Monday.

"It was a very good meeting in which we talked about multiple topics. I started talking about his message this morning at the WFP and that gave rise to us talking about the big problems of the world," Malcorra said, according to Merco Press.

"Basically the Holy Father expressed to me his clear concern that poverty is a reality and it is important to maintain a form of social coverage for those people who need it most," she added.

The Buenos Aires Herald reports that tensions have been strained between the Pope and Macri since the latter refused to appeal a ruling that legalised same-sex marriage.

Francis has also been a forceful voice in the campaign to eradicate sweat shops in Argentina.