Berlin

Argentinian priest seeks to lay to rest questions over pope

Victim of military regime gives blessing to Francis

Argentinian priest seeks to lay to rest questions over pope

(see related stories) Berlin, March 15 - A priest who was imprisoned and tortured under Argentinian military dictatorship sought on Friday to lay to rest some questions swirling around what role Pope Francis may have played during a dark chapter of his country's history. ''I have come to terms with those events and for me that story is over,'' wrote Father Franz Jalics, one of two Catholic priests who were arrested and interrogated under the regime of Jorge Rafael Videla, a senior military commander who was Argentina's de facto president from 1976 to 1981. ''I cannot take any position with respect to the role of Jorge Mario Bergoglio,'' Jalics continued referring Francis's birth name. But he added: ''I wish Pope Francis a rich blessing from God for his office''. Jalics described what happened to him in a statement posted on the German Jesuit website jesuiten.org. Jalics said he was born in Hungary and moved to Argentina in 1957. In 1974, he and a fellow priest transferred to a slum ''with the permission of Archbishop Aramburu and the provincial father Jorge Mario Bergoglio''. During the military regime, the government killed roughly 30,000 people, guerrilla rebels and innocent civilians alike. ''We in the slum had no contact with the regime or the guerillas. Either from lack of information in that era or false information furnished on purpose, our position was misunderstood in the church,'' Jalics continued. ''We lost contact with one of our lay collaborators, who joined a guerilla unit. After his arrest and his interrogation (the investigators) learned that he had collaborated with us. For this reason, we were arrested on the supposition that we were also involved with the guerrillas,'' the statement said. ''After a five-day interrogation, the official who conducted the questioning dismissed us with these words, 'Father, you are not guilty and I will make an effort to return you to the poor neighborhoods'''. ''Despite this effort, we remained in prison, for us inexplicably, for another five months, blindfolded and with hands tied,'' Jalics remembered. ''After our liberation, I left Argentina. Only years later did we have the possibility of speaking about those events with Father Bergoglio, who in the meantime was named archbishop of Buenos Aires. ''After that meeting we celebrated together a public mass and we embraced solemnly,'' Jalics said.

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