WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — As the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics continue to celebrate the election of Pope Franics I, questions about his past in Argentina are beginning to bubble up.
CBS News reports that the new pope was previously accused of being involved in the kidnappings of two slum Jesuit priests by Argentina’s military junta in 1976 during the country’s “dirty war.”
Revs. Francisco Jalics and Orlando Yorio were kidnapped and tortured for months at the Navy Mechanics School after then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio withdrew his support for the two and lifted church protection for them because he felt their views didn’t represent the Catholic Church’s Jesuit values.
An Argentine lawyer sued Bergoglio before the 2005 conclave to replace Pope John Paul II and charged him for the priests’ kidnapping. The lawsuit was later dismissed as there were no facts to back up the claim.
CBS News reports that Bergoglio denied any involvement in his 2010 biography. A Vatican official reiterated the new pope’s stance.
“There has never been a concrete or credible accusation,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told CBS News.
Jalics, who currently lives in a German monastery, said in a statement he talked to Bergoglio years after the kidnapping.
“It was only years later that we had the opportunity to talk with Father Bergoglio … to discuss the events,” Jalics said, according to The Associated Press. “”Following that, we celebrated Mass publicly together and hugged solemnly. I am reconciled to the events and consider the matter to be closed.”
Jalics, though, did not elaborate if the two talked about the kidnapping.
“I cannot comment on the role of Father Bergoglio in these events,” he said in his statement. “I wish Pope Francis God’s rich blessings for his office.”
Argentina’s “dirty war” lasted from 1976-1983 where the military junta killed thousands of leftist opponents.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)