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Argentine activist rues election of Pope Francis

Last Updated: Friday, March 15, 2013 - 10:52

Rome: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio`s election as Pope Francis represents a defeat for opponents and victims of Argentina`s brutal 1976-1983 military dictatorship, an Argentine investigative journalist and human rights activist has said.

"I am among those who fought to oppose his election as pope and I have lost my battle," Horacio Verbitsky told Italy`s La Repubblica newspaper.

In his 2005 book "The Silence", Verbitsky claimed that Bergoglio, who was head of the Jesuit order from 1973-1979, withdrew his order`s protection from two liberal Jesuit priests, paving the way for their abduction in 1976 by the Argentine military, and torture during six months in detention.

The book is based on interviews with one of the two Jesuit priests, who fell foul of the military for their work in poor neighbourhoods.

After its publication, both priests were expelled from the Jesuit order.

Bergoglio has called the allegations against him "slanderous" and claims on the contrary that he moved behind the scenes to save the lives of the two priests and others that he secretly hid from the death squads.

In 2006, on the 30th anniversary of the military coup that brought the generals to power, Bergoglio, then head of the Argentine Episcopal Conference, issued a public apology for "errors committed" by the Catholic Church during the dictatorship.

The wider Catholic church backed Argentina`s military government and has been accused of a complicit silence and worse during the murders of thousands of people who included at least two bishops and numerous priests.
The topic is a contentious one, clouded by sketchy and contested evidence.

Documents have been destroyed and many of the victims and perpetrators are now dead.

"There`s no conclusive proof," Verbitsky admitted.


First Published: Friday, March 15, 2013 - 10:52
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