Questions remain over Pope Francis’ role during Argentina’s dictatorship

Pope Francis I via AFP

By Uki Goni, The Guardian
Thursday, March 14, 2013 0:01 EDT

Jorge Bergoglio was head of the Jesuit order in the 1970s when the church backed military government and called for patriotism

Despite the joyful celebrations outside the Municipal Cathedral in Buenos Aires yesterday, the news of Latin America’s first pope was clouded by lingering concerns about the role of the church – and its new head – during Argentina’s brutal military dictatorship.

The Catholic church and Pope Francis have been accused of a complicit silence and worse during the “dirty war” of murders and abductions carried out by the junta that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983.

Its behaviour during that dark period in Argentine history was so unsaintly that in 2000 the Argentine Catholic church itself made a public apology for its failure to take a stand against the generals. “We want to confess before God everything we have done badly,” Argentina’s Episcopal Conference said at that time.

In February, a court noted during the sentencing of three former military men to life imprisonment for the killings of two priests that the church hierarchy had “closed its eyes” to the killing of progressive priests.

As head of the Jesuit order from 1973 to 1979, Jorge Bergoglio – as the new pope was known until yesterday – was a member of the hierarachy during the period when the wider Catholic church backed the military government and called for their followers to be patriotic.

 

Bergoglio twice refused to testify in court about his role as head of the Jesuit order. When he eventually appeared in front of a judge in 2010, he was accused by lawyers of being evasive.

The main charge against Bergoglio involves the kidnapping of two Jesuit priests, Orland Yorio and Francisco Jalics, who were taken by Navy officers in May 1976 and held under inhumane conditions for the missionary work they conducted in the country’s slums, a politically risky activity at the time.

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