Rome

Pope wasn't complicit with junta says Esquivel

Journalist retracts claims against Bergoglio

Pope wasn't complicit with junta says Esquivel

(By Kate Carlisle) Rome, March 21 - Argentine Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel said on Thursday that Pope Francis had no connections with the dictatorship that marred their home country in the 1970s. Following an audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican, Esquivel told reporters that the former archbishop of Buenos Aires "had nothing to do with the dictatorship...he was not an accomplice". Esquivel, 81, said that the two Argentines were not meeting for the first time. "More than meet each other, we had a reunion," said the writer and human-rights activist. "We also talked about human rights, and he told me to seek truth and justice," for the crimes committed in Argentina. The pope said that "human rights are integral, not only restricted to the murders of a dictatorship, but also to poverty...and the life of people," Esquivel underlined. Pope Francis "preferred a quiet diplomacy," he said. Since his election to the papacy, allegations have surfaced that Francis was complicit in violence carried out against left-wing activists and militants during his time as the Jesuit Provincial superior of Argentina. Articles critical of the pope's alleged inaction during his home country's dictatorship years appeared after his election to the papacy in papers ranging from the New York Times to Spain's El Mundo and even Argentina's Pagina12 daily paper. Horacio Verbitsky, the Argentine journalist who fingered Pope Francis for inaction to protect priests in his province during the military dictatorship that lasted from 1976 to 1983, said on Thursday that new statements by the Jesuit priests free the pope from "any liability in their arrest and torture by the military". In an article in Pagina12 where Verbitsky originally published his accusations based on interviews with two priests who were arrested and tortured in the country's 'Dirty War', Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics, the journalist said that Jalics first declared that he had "reconciled with Bergoglio". "Reconciliation is a Catholic sacrament that consists of pardoning. However, his (Jalics') latest statements go further and absolve Bergoglio of all responsibility," Verbitsky wrote. Verbitsky wrote that until recently the priest believed he had been "reported together with (Orlando) Yorio," and that it took "a quarter of a century to come to a different conclusion, and to be able to say that it was a mistake to blame our capture on an initiative by Bergoglio". Following his audience with Pope Francis, Esquivel said that "there certainly were complicit clergy, but not (Jorge) Bergolio". "I believe that (Horacio) Verbitsky made many mistakes with his allegations against the pontiff," Esquivel said.

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