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Pope Francis and the past

By Tom Clifford - posted Friday, 22 March 2013


The two popes have a jackboot pedigree.

Benedict was a member of the Hitler Youth and Francis faces serious questions over support for the Argentine junta.

With an average age of 72 the cardinals in conclave, half of them selected by Benedict, were never going to go for a "modern pontiff''.

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As one of the world's wealthiest organizations, the Catholic church's boardroom does not do happy clappy, touchy feely. Take away those cardinals tainted by sex abuse scandals, those whose ideology tends towards liberation theolgy, (an ever decreasing circle), the infirm (physicaly and mentally) and those from what was once called the Third World (still viewed with a degree of suspicion in the Vatican) and the choice is rather limited.

Francis may be from South America, but the Europeans, still the driving force at the conclave, feel comfortable with him.

But one simple question needs to be addressed. Does Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis, have blood on his hands?

It is far from clear that he doesn't.

Walking the streets of Buenos Aires it is not uncommon to come across plaques inlaid into the pavements commemorating a short life. Neighborhood committees have remembered those who fell to the junta (1976-83) in a way that shames the church's acquiescence to the generals.

Bergoglio twice refused to appear in court to answer questions about his role in the 'Dirty War'. His replies to questions when he did appear in 2010 were evasive, especially over the issue of stolen babies, a subject which continues to haunt Argentina.

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What did the pope know and when did he know it?

The junta grabbed power in March, 1976, but only after its leading figures met members of the church heirarchy for their blessing. At first the church denied the meetings took place but now acknowledge they did.

For the following seven years, the Catholic church in Argentina, and the new pope, were largely silent. Some excpetionally brave priests and nuns took a stand for justice and opposed the junta but these were few in number and shunned by their religious superiors.

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About the Author

Tom Clifford worked as a freelance journalist in South America in 2009, covering Bolivian and Argentine affairs. Now in China, he has worked for newspapers in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the Far East.

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