Lifestyle & Belief

Vatican denies Pope Francis stayed silent in Dirty War


Former Argentine military dictator Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla takes communion from then-priest Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who was just named the new Pope, in Buenos Aires on Dec. 30, 1990. The photo was taken the day before Videla was released from prison, where he had been serving a life sentence on charges that included homicide, kidnapping and torture. Videla and seven other former military rulers were officially pardoned by then-President Carlos Menem.



LIMA, Peru — The Vatican is hitting back at critics who have charged that Pope Francis didn't do enough during Argentina's Dirty War.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi called the accusations "defamatory" and told reporters today that they "must be clearly and firmly denied."

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Critics of Jorge Bergoglio, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, allege he failed to protect priests who challenged Argentina's military dictatorship during the its Dirty War from 1976-1983.

They also claim he's said too little about the complicity of the church during that time, according to Reuters.

Specifically, Bergoglio is accused of failing to protect two Jesuit priests who were later kidnapped and tortured by military officials in 1976, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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One of those priests, Orlando Yorio, has since died.

The other issued a statement today saying the two had reconciled.

"It was only years later that we had the opportunity to talk with Fr Bergoglio ... to discuss the events, Francisco Jalics said in the statement obtained by The Associated Press. "Following that, we celebrated Mass publicly together and hugged solemnly."

GlobalPost correspondent Simeon Tegel says the allegations appear serious.

"... particularly for someone, such as a priest, charged with moral leadership of the community. But it is notable that the priest that survived appears to have made his peace with Francis."

The new pope's official biographer, Sergio Rubin, also argued to BBC News that the Jesuit leader "took extraordinary, behind-the-scenes action" to save the men.

"Equally, there are other influential Argentines who resisted the junta, such as the Nobel peace prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel, who have backed Francis and said he has nothing to be ashamed of," Tegel said, adding:

But given the moral standing of the pope, and how Argentine society remains traumatized by the disappearances and torture carried out by the military dictatorship, we should expect more such allegations and for this story to run and run.

Simeon Tegel contributed to this report from Lima.