Argentina 'grandmothers' ask pope for help finding missing children


Pope Francis delivers his blessing to the palms and to the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square during Palm Sunday Mass on March 24, 2013.


Christopher Furlong

Argentina's human rights group Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo have asked Pope Francis for help finding children who went missing during the country's 1976-83 military dictatorship.

The group's president, Estela de Carlotto, met with the pope after Wednesday's general audience in St. Peter's Square, handing him a written request that he authorize Vatican and Catholic Church archives in Argentina be opened in order to search for clues about the whereabouts of about 500 babies who were taken from their mothers when the women were detained by the military.

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"We wish that in his new role as the maximum authority of the Catholic Church, (the pontiff) can mediate in the necessary mechanisms to collaborate in the search of almost 400 grandchildren who have not yet recovered their true identities and also help us to know what happened with our disappeared sons and daughters," Carlotto's letter read.

Carlotto told reporters that Francis had told her: "'You can count on me. You can count on us.'"

Speaking on behalf of the pontiff, Vatican undersecretary for relations with states Antoine Camilleri said Pope Francis "shared the pain of many mothers in that moment of Argentine history."

The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo had first brought the issue to the pope's attention about a month ago, just after he was elected the head of the Catholic Church. The group takes its name from the square in Buenos Aires where they have been protesting for decades.