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Francis speaks out on 'Dirty War' for first time as pope

'I feel the pain of the mothers of the disappeared'

18 April, 16:27
Francis speaks out on 'Dirty War' for first time as pope (ANSA) - Buenos Aires, April 18 - Pope Francis has spoken out for the first time in his pontificate about the forced disappearances during the Dirty War of Argentina, his home country.

Speaking on behalf of the pope, Antoine Camilleri, Vatican undersecretary for relations with states, said the pope "shares the pain of many mothers in that moment of Argentine history". The response came just over a month after the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was named pope and received a letter days later from the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, an association of mothers whose children "disappeared" during the military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983.

That letter, signed by the militant leader of the group Hebe de Bonafini, expressed how struck she was by the large amount of testimonies from people living in the poorest neighborhoods of Buenos Aires about their friendship with Bergoglio. After initial skepticism of the pope, Bonafini expressed a change of heart, while vowing nevertheless to send the pope a list of the priests and bishops who were secretly abducted or killed. Recalling the pain of those who "suffered, and are still suffering, from the tragic loss" of loved ones in those years, the pope in his response asked God to grant "the strength to fight for the eradication of poverty in the world". Since his election last month, allegations have surfaced that the pope was complicit with the junta during the Dirty War, when he was still a priest, which the Vatican has been quick to deny.

The claims were also largely discredited by Argentine Nobel Peace laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel, who said Francis had no connections with the dictatorship.

(photo: Hebe de Bonafini and Pope Francis)
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