Besides his downright primitive views on LGBT issues, the most potent critiques against the newly installed Pope Francis have had to do with his potentially gruesome role in Argentina’s so-called Dirty War.
Today there is more information about Pope Francis and his time in the conflict, and yet exactly what happened remains murkier than ever.
In a book called El Silencio by Argentinean journalist Horacio Verbitsky, Verbitsky details an incident in 1976 in which Pope Francis, known then as Jorge Bergoglio, was complicit in the kidnapping of two priests, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics. Verbitsky’s reporting claims that Bergoglio ordered Yorio and Jalics to stop their work with the poor in Argentina’s slums. When the men refused, the military government imprisoned them for a period of five months.
Yorio, who died in 2000 of natural causes, went to his grave believing Bergoglio had hung him and Jalics out to dry. Jalics, on the other hand, went mum. According to the Associated Press: “Yorio accused Bergoglio of effectively handing them over to the death squads by declining to tell the regime that he endorsed their work. Jalics refused to discuss it after moving into seclusion in a German monastery.”
This morning, Jalics finally broke his silence, releasing a statement via the German Jesuit order where he now resides. Though Jalics still won’t comment on whether Bergoglio had a hand in his kidnapping, abandoning him to the junta, he says he has “reconciled to the events” with Bergoglio.
Starting in 1957 I lived in Buenos Aires. In the year 1974, moved by an inner wish to live the gospel and to draw attention to the terrible poverty, and with the permission of Archbishop Aramburu and the then-Provincial Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio I moved together with a confrere into a “Favela,” one of the city’s slums. From there we continued our teaching at the university.
In the civil-war-like situation back then, the military junta killed roughly 30,000 people within one to two years, leftist guerrillas as well as innocent civilians. The two of us in the slum had contact neither with the junta nor with the guerrillas. Partly due to the lack of information and through targeted misinformation our situation was also misunderstood within the church. At this time we lost our connection to one of our lay coworkers who had joined the guerrillas. After he was taken prisoner nine months later by the soldiers of the junta and questioned, they learned that he had been connected with us. Under the assumption that we also had something to do with the guerrillas we were arrested. After five days of interrogation the officer who led the questioning dismissed us with the words, “Fathers, you were not guilty. I will ensure that you can return to the poor district.” In spite of this pledge, we were then inexplicably held in custody, blindfolded and bound, for five months. I cannot comment on the role of Fr. Bergoglio in these events.
After we were freed I left Argentina. Only years later did we have the chance to discuss what had happened with Fr. Bergoglio, who in the meantime had been named archbishop of Buenos Aires. Afterwards we together celebrated a public mass and solemnly embraced. I am reconciled to the events and view them from my side as concluded.
I wish Pope Francis God’s rich blessing for his office.
For his part, Bergoglio—now Pope Francis—says he actually saved Yorio and Jalics’ lives, even “persuading dictator Jorge Videla’s family priest to call in sick so that Bergoglio could say Mass in the junta leader’s home, where he privately appealed for mercy.”
The Vatican continues to sternly reject any accusation that says its new leader conspired with a dictatorial regime, but at this point it seems impossible to get to the real bottom of the story. The truth now lies between Pope Francis, Jalics, Yorio, and their god.
Update: This post’s headline has been amended to clarify that Bergoglio is not accused of helping to kidnap the priests, but rather declining to intervene.