Pontiff has not delivered dictatorship files
A year has passed since former cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected to the Papacy in a surprise conclave election. And while accusations of his complicity in human rights violations committed in the country’s last military dictatorship have not faced public scrutiny, questions still remain over his willingness to open up archives that could be important for further investigations.
The Church archives contain thousands of letters, documents and correspondence between the military government and Vatican officials that could prove to be valuable for the investigations into human rights violations committed by the 1976-83 military dictatorship. But, as of yet, despite having promised Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo leader Estela Barnes de Carlotto that he would provide records to help in the search for their over 400 missing grandchildren, nothing has come to fruition.
In April 2013, for example, only a month after Bergoglio was elected to the papacy, Barnes de Carlotto went to Rome to meet with Pope Francis to request that the Argentine Church and Vatican open up their archives to see if there was any information that could help them in their search.
But when the Herald called the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo yesterday, Barnes de Carlotto said that as of yet nothing significant has come of the meeting.
“A few months ago we finally received a response to our April, 2013 sit-down but the information received did not contribute anything significant or new to our search,” she said.
However, Barnes de Carlotto said that despite this, “there is still good faith between the two institutions to continue co-operating and gathering the necessary information.”
Last month, Alan Iud, the head of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo’s legal team, explained to the Herald why the human rights organization wants the Church archives.
“We want the baptism certificates because there is a hypothesis that those who gave away the snatched babies were then their godfathers. We need documents. In the military garrison of Campo de Mayo, there was a congregation of nuns who ‘assisted’ the pregnant women who were held there. The Church should give us those documents but also call on its parishioners to testify,” Iud told the Herald.
There are also several testimonies from the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, who went to several churches to beg for help.
For instance, founder of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo María Isabel “Chicha” Chorobik de Mariani last year recalled in conversation with this newspaper her meetings with Monsignor Emilio Graselli, who had a personal archive formed by notes which contained information about disappeared people.
Another issue still being investigated — although it has been largely dismissed — is an incident which directly involves Pope Francis, when he was head of the Jesuit order in Argentina. The case has to do with two priests kidnapped in 1976 during the last military dictatorship: Francisco Jalics and the late Orlando Yorio who had both accused Bergoglio of leaving them unprotected while also allegedly knowingly allowed them to be kidnapped by military officers.
Despite Jalics having stated last year he no longer believes that Bergoglio had any responsibility in his kidnapping, the relatives of late Father Yorio have not given up, with his sister Graciela Yorio scheduled to testify tomorrow and provide further details in the case. In the past, Graciela Yorio has said several times that the Church should release its archives which could provide essential clues to the case.
Orlando Yorio, for example, had sent a report to the Vatican after he was kidnapped in 1977, accusing Bergoglio of his involvement in his kidnapping and saying there was a letter by Third World priests allegedly sent to several Church authorities to protest his actions.
Two years ago, Bergoglio appeared before Criminal Oral Court Number 5, which is in charge of examining the crimes committed at the Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA) former clandestine detention centre. He then made reference to several meetings with iconic junta leaders Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera and then military president Jorge Rafael Videla.
In fact, this case, has largely been dismissed and is now seen as a lost cause. The majority of human rights leaders have muted their questioning of Pope Francis since he came into office.