Pope Francis has been an inspiring and charismatic world leader. He has sought to soften the church’s image as an ascetic and cold institution, incapable of welcoming into its ranks those whom Jesus described as “the least among us.” Francis proclaimed at the beginning of his pontificate that he wanted “a church that is poor and for the poor,” later recounting how he took his papal name from Francis of Assisi, a 12th century man of wealth and privilege who later renounced his possessions to serve the poor and forgotten.
Many contemporaries, and Left-leaning political constituents view Pope Francis as a man of the modern times. He has often been misquoted, and his words misconstrued, from a 12,000 word interview in America Magazine. He has been favored by American Liberals as being supportive of abortions, gay rights, atheists, etc..landing him on the cover of Time magazine and the gay rights magazine The Advocate, as their “2013 Person of the Year.” TIME dubbed Francis, “The People’s Pope.”
Pope Francis has often asserted when questioned about the aforementioned societal views that liberals take to heart, he never said he fully supports any liberal agendas.
So what kind of man is Pope Francis?
He was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio S.J, in Buenos Aires on 17 December 1936, the son of Italian immigrants. His father Mario was an accountant employed by the railways and his mother Regina Sivori was a committed wife dedicated to raising their five children. He graduated as a chemical technician and then chose the path of the priesthood, entering the Diocesan Seminary of Villa Devoto. On 11 March 1958 he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus. He completed his studies of the humanities in Chile and returned to Argentina in 1963 to graduate with a degree in philosophy from the Colegio de San José in San Miguel. From 1964 to 1965 he taught literature and psychology at Immaculate Conception College in Santa Fé and in 1966 he taught the same subject at the Colegio del Salvatore in Buenos Aires. From 1967-70 he studied theology and obtained a degree from the Colegio of San José.
However, Pope Francis has rarely spoken about his own role in what’s known as the “Dirty War,” during which at least 9,000 people were forcibly disappeared. But in 2010, he appeared as a witness in the criminal trial of eighteen officers who had worked at the notorious Naval Mechanics School, where the country’s military junta detained political prisoners—including a pair of Jesuit priests who’d been kidnapped shortly after the regime took power in a 1976 coup. Bergoglio, who was not a defendant in the case, insisted on clerical testimonial privilege and did not testify in open court; proceedings were held in his office. As part of my research into that trial, I obtained access to a transcript from the hearing, during which prosecutors and human rights lawyers grilled him for more than four hours over his alleged complicity in the kidnappings. The transcript has not been widely circulated, though it recently appeared in Spanish on the website of an Argentine human rights NGO. It offers a unique insight into the steps Bergoglio took and did not take to save the desaparecidos.
Argentine grandmothers attack Pope over ‘Dirty War’ era
16 MARCH 2013
AFP – An Argentinian human rights group set up to find babies stolen during the country’s “Dirty War” on Friday accused newly elected Pope Francis of failing to speak out against the country’s former military rulers.
The famous Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo organization, founded in 1977 to help locate children kidnapped during the military era, said Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, had not done enough to help victims of rights abuses.
The criticism came amid heightened scrutiny of Pope Francis’s actions during Argentina’s “Dirty War” in which 30,000 people died or disappeared from 1976 to 1983.
Earlier Friday, the Vatican rejected claims Pope Francis had failed to do all he could to protect two priests kidnapped and tortured during military rule, when he was head of the Jesuit order in Argentina at the time.
However the head of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Estela Carlotto, joined the chorus of criticism surrounding the new pontiff.
“The Grandmothers have reproaches for the new pontiff,” Carlotto told reporters.
“He has never spoken of the problem of people who had disappeared under dictatorial rule, and 30 years have already passed since our return to democracy.”
Carlotto’s daughter, Laura, was abducted and killed during military rule after being taken to a secret detention center. A baby boy she gave birth to while in custody has never been found.
Carlotto said she had expected the Argentinian clergy to help during the years of rights abuses.
“I am a Catholic, and many of us sought help from the church in the first years of dictatorship because we believed that bishops were on our side,” said Carlotto.
But she said the church hierarchy had “deeply disappointed” her.
While the world has generally welcomed the Catholic Church’s selection of the Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as pope, one large and dark question hangs over his ascension: As the head of the Jesuit order during Argentina’s last dictatorship, was he complicit with the military regime that kidnapped, tortured, and murdered thousands of its citizens?
By the time he testified, Bergoglio had been facing criticism about the kidnapping for years. His critics allege that he withdrew Church protection from the priests, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics, who worked with the poor in the Bajo Flores slum of Buenos Aires. According to this theory, Bergoglio had warned the priests that they should abandon the slum because sectors of the military and church saw their activity as “subversive.” When the priests refused, he allegedly told them they’d have to leave the Compañia de Jesus, their local order, if they wanted to keep working there—effectively giving the green light to the military junta to detain them. In a 1999 interview, conducted shortly before he died, Yorio said that he faulted Bergoglio for his kidnapping. Bergoglio denied complicity. After the interview was published in a book in 2005, a local human rights lawyer filed a criminal complaint against Bergoglio over the incident. The courts, however, have not taken any steps to indict Bergoglio, according to the lawyer, Marcelo Parrilli. But the interview appeared just as Bergoglio was being mentioned as a possible successor to Pope John Paul II.
Bergoglio’s 2010 testimony offers his take on events. Prior to the coup, he said he had given Yorio and Jalics permission to work in the Bajo Flores slum. The two priests, who practiced liberation theology, saw their life mission as alleviating the plight of the poor. Bergoglio testified at trial that “every priest that worked with the poor was a target for suspicion and accusation from some sectors,” but as a “Jesuit brother” of the priests, he wanted to do what he could to help them “continue working.” Bergolgio testified that Yorio and Jalics told him several times that they thought they were in danger. He also recalled that he was pressured from inside the church to dissolve the religious community where Yorio and Jalics worked and transfer the priests elsewhere in the church, though he claimed it was for organizational reasons, not ideological ones. Bergoglio was also questioned about allegations that Yorio’s ministerial license had been revoked several days before the kidnapping, another alleged signal to the military that the priests were fair game. He disputed this account, saying, “I don’t believe that their licenses were suspended.” As evidence, Bergoglio said that the priests continued to work in the slum, which they would not have been permitted to do “if their licenses had been formally suspended.”
Bergoglio also insisted that he was helping Yorio and Jalics. Before the coup, the two had renounced their affiliation with the Jesuit order, and were in a period of “transition,” as Bergoglio called it, looking for a Bishop to sponsor them. During this period, Bergoglio told the priests that “that they could celebrate mass.” Whether Bergoglio had authority to allow them to do so he left “to their interpretation,” implying that their work might not be officially sanctioned, but that he would not disapprove.
Luis Zamora, a human rights lawyer who did the majority of the examination, at one point asked Bergolgio, “In these thirty-four years what was the reason that you never approached the courts to give all of the information that you knew and that you are now giving us?” The court did not allow the question, and Bergoglio did not answer.
After the hearing, Zamora described Bergolgio as “reticent,” adding, “when someone is reticent they are lying, they are hiding part of the truth.” Reached for comment, Zamora added that Bergoglio has “completely failed” in his explanation of the past. He added that those who say Bergoglio was an insignificant figure in the Church at the time are mistaken, as evidenced by his ability to arrange meetings with Videla and Massera, the country’s two most powerful military men. In his testimony, Bergoglio said he did not remember the names of those who helped him make contact with the military. When asked about records of his conversations with Videla and Massera, he said that he didn’t have any because the time pressures were so great that he had to move quickly and he did not have time to write anything down.
What would one expect from a Jesuit Pope? More on that later…