Pope Francis I Will Argentina's 'Dirty War' Come Back to Haunt Latin America's First Pontiff
Pope Francis: Argentina's 'Dirty War' Come Back to Haunt Latin America's First Pontiff

The Vatican has rejected claims that Pope Francis did not speak out against human rights abuses during the Dirty War in his native Argentina.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that there has never been a "credible, concrete accusation against the pope" and "discredited accusations" against the then-cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, which he claimed were "driven by anticlerical left-wing ideology".

Pope Francis has been accused of being aware of rights abuses and failing to denounce them during a period when around 30,000 people were abducted, tortured or killed by Argentina's military dictatorship during the 1970s.

In 2005, Bergoglio was formally accused in an Argentine lawsuit of being complicit in the kidnapping by the military junta of two Jesuit priests for anti-government views.

Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics were dismissed by Bergoglio, the then-leader of Argentina's Jesuits, before they disappeared. The pair were taken to the infamous Naval School of Mechanics in March 1976, and found drugged and partially undressed months later.

Cardinal Bergoglio testified in 2010 that he had met secretly with General Jorge Videla, former head of the military junta, and Admiral Emilio Massera, commander of the navy, to demand the release of the priests. In an interview published the same year, Bergoglio defended his behaviour during the dictatorship, saying that he helped shelter anti-government people being sought for arrest or disappearance.

Horacio Verbitsky, a leading Argentine journalist, exposed Francis' connection to the abduction of two Jesuit priests in two books.

"When the military coups overthrew the Isabel Perón government, he was in touch with the military that ousted this government and asked the Jesuits to stop their social work," said Verbitsky in an interview with Democracy Now.

"And when they refused to do it, he stopped protecting them, and he let the military know that they were no more inside the protection of the Jesuits' company, and they were kidnapped."

Verbitzky claims that during the research for one of his books, he found documents in Argentina's foreign relations archive showing the "double standards" that Bergoglio used.

"The first document is a note in which Bergoglio asked the ministry to renew the passport of one of these two Jesuits that, after his release, was living in Germany, asking that the passport was renewed without necessity of this priest coming back to Argentina," he said.

"The second document is a note from the officer that received the petition recommending to his superior, the minister, the refusal of the renewal of the passport," he continued.

"And the third document is a note from the same officer telling that these priests have links with subversion-that was the name that the military gave to all the people involved in opposition to the government, political or armed opposition to the military-and that he was jailed in the mechanics school of the navy, and saying that this information was provided to the officer by Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, provincial superior of the Jesuit company."

The new Pope's official biographer, Sergio Rubin, argues that the Jesuit leader "took extraordinary, behind-the-scenes action to save them".


Pope Francis I: Will Argentina's Dirty War Come Back to Haunt Latin America's First Pontiff?

Pope Francis: The Jesuit History of Suppression and Theology of Liberation